Is it really time to brick up Somalia?

There was a time living in Kenya, when the more seasoned – or cynical – among us hacks would ponder what to do about Somalia.

Eventually someone would say: “Brick it up. Last man standing is declared president.”

They would say it half in jest. It was more an admission of Somalia’s unfixable status than a policy prescription.

And now it actually seems to be happening, with Kenya keen to protect its people from al-Shabaab terrorists who have inflicted so much carnage in the past 18 months.

Kenyan officials say that construction equipment has arrived in Mandera to build what is often called a border wall but is actually envisioned as a barrier of fences, ditches and observation posts that extend from here all the way to the Indian Ocean.

“It’s not like the Great Wall of China,” said Mwende Njoka, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “That would be too expensive.”

It’s hard not to sympathise with Kenya’s position. But Mandera’s existence is largely down to the border trade – some illicit, some less so. Thousands of people criss-cross back and forth. It is an impossible situation.

And isn’t it sad that it has come to this?

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