By: THE STAR
Dry fish traders in Lamu county are pleading for the reopening of the Lamu-Somalia border to enable them to access their markets in the neighbouring country.
A cross-border ban forbids traders from the two countries from interacting and doing business.
The Kenyan government imposed the ban in June 2019 to curb human trafficking, smuggling of contraband goods and cross-border terrorism.
Lamu traders buy dry fish from towns such as Kismayo and Mogadishu in Somalia and cross over back to Kenya where the fish is sold in Lamu, Mombasa and Kilifi.
Dry fish, a common accompaniment of meals in the Swahili, Bajuni and coastal households, has been off meal tables as the ban continues to stifle supply.
In April this year, security agencies nabbed and torched what they termed an illegal consignment of dry fish weighing 12 tonnes and worth Sh5 million.
The move sent fear among traders in the region who now feel the trade is being unfairly targeted.
The traders want the ban lifted to allow them carry on the trade freely and without any fear of repercussions.
Trader Aboud Athman says it will be an expensive and heart-wrenching affair ferrying dry fish from Somalia, only for the consignment to be impounded.
“We can function well without the ban. This is one trade that has done well in the past and we have never had cases where fellow traders were involved in other things. We are simply trying to make a living but that can’t happen with the cross-border ban,” Athman said.
The fishermen have urged the government to consider the positive relationship that has existed between Lamu and Somalia for decades and reconsider.
As a result of the ban, many traders have temporarily opted out of the trade. The traders said the business is hurting livelihoods and straining the relationship between Lamu and Somalia.
In a previous interview, Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia had hinted at plans to exempt dry fish and miraa traders from the two regions and allow them to continue with their ventures. He, however, did not specify when that would happen.