Operation Linda Nchi in 2011 was initiated by Kenyan Security Forces with the aim to create a buffer zone from the spill-over of insecurity from Somalia. The operation however triggered the expansion of Al-Shabaab into Kenya causing terrorist attacks to increase in scale and number.
In 2014, the Al-Shabaab ideologue Sheikh Fuaad Mohamed Khalaf “Shongole” declared that the group had shifted the conflict from Somalia to inside Kenya. The group now has a cross-border presence and has infiltrated the Muslim population in the north-east sourcing clandestine support from locals in the NFD (Northern Frontier District), Nairobi and at the coast.
AL Shabaab activity however remains characterized by peaks and lulls, with spikes of high-fatality violence and low-activity periods. This indicates shifting cycles of violence in the country, which are likely to persist and that are a result of the continuous war on the group by various forces.
In 2014/15, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Tana River, and Lamu experienced a series of terrorist attacks mainly targeting non-locals, security forces and government representatives. The frequency of attacks spiked between April and June 2015 amounting to 39 incidents, particularly in Garissa and Lamu counties, but also in Mandera and Wajir resulting in the death of 186 people and injury of 1445.
The group has continuously drawn on regional and ethnic divisions with clan rivalries at the centre of the fray. Stirring anxiety and fear is integral to how Al-Shabaab seeks to advance its ambitions in the country. The recent incidents and the deliberate targeting of non-Muslims and non-locals have compounded the already complicated security situation, resulting in the refusal of many non-resident workers to return to the counties. This trend intensified following the bus attack in Mandera and the assassination of Kenyan Christian teachers by Al-Shabaab.
As non-locals contribute a significant part of the workforce in the North Eastern Province, the attacks subsequently affected primarily the health and education sectors leaving humanitarian gaps and the efforts to return health and education professionals to the affected areas are unlikely to occur soon. Due to the volatile security situation in northern Kenya, humanitarian access and the delivery of services was limited, with the education and health sectors most affected.