The Guardian: Kenya to build a wall on Somali border to keep out al-Shabaab

Analysis: amid plans for Israeli-style ‘separation barrier’ against both militants and immigrants, Simon Allison questions how effective a Great Wall can be

APTOPIX Somalia Kenya

Kenya is going to build a wall. Not just any wall, but a “separation barrier”, to employ the euphemism coined by Israel to describe the towering, snaking structure that now separates it from Palestine’s West Bank.

Kenya’s version will be built along sections of its notoriously porous border with Somalia. A physical rendering in bricks, mortar and barbed wire of a line on the map.

“Construction works will begin soon. We expect to have finished the project before the end of the year,” said Lamu county governor Issa Timamy, as reported in the Daily Nation. Further details on the project are not yet forthcoming, and Lamu county have not responded to requests for comment.

All that is known is that the wall will be erected along the sections of border near the coast, and that its intent will be to keep out illegal immigrants from Somalia as well as dangerous al-Shabaab militants. A threat felt keenly after al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi in 2013.

“This is where immigrants have been arrested trying to cross into the country or having already entered through the border in Lamu. This is a good idea and we support it because we believe it will go a long way to secure this region and indeed, the country as a whole,” said Timamy.

Walls are a comforting proposition. There is something reassuring about shutting the everyone else out and pretending as you go to sleep at night that the world’s problems are not yours; that the bad guys can’t get you.

But how does this theory translate on to the international stage? Can countries really shut themselves off from their neighbours? Can cartographical borders become man-made barriers?

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