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Mandera quarry workers resume operations after ban lifted

Stone miners at the Bur Abor quarry in Mandera County in 2016. The High Court has quashed an order banning mining works in the border county over terrorism. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SAM KIPLAGAT

Quarry miners in Mandera East have obtained orders stopping the government from harassing them while carrying out their business.

High Court Judge Charles Kariuki agreed with the workers that it was wrong for the Mandera County commissioner and area police boss to impose a ban on stone mining in the county without consulting them.

Mandera County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka told the court that the ban in the border northeastern region had been made in good faith and for public interest following emergent violent extremism in the county.

Mr Olaka said quarrying had been suspended as part of the concerted effort to curb attacks by the Somalia-based militants Al-Shabaab, who were also creating a wedge between locals and non-locals.

The county commissioner said the majority of quarry workers were non-locals, who have become a major target of the Al-Shabaab attacks with more than 57 people killed since 2014 by the militants.

DISCRIMINATION

But Tawakal Quarry Producers Co-operative Society Ltd, with a membership of 29 people, that moved to court to challenge the government ban, argued that the attacks by terrorists happened in hotels and lodgings, shopping centres, residential houses, and not the quarry sites.

According to the workers, the ban presumed and curtailed freedom of movement, association and employment of all Kenyans by inputting discriminative and profiling references such as locals and non-locals to justify unreasonable, unfair and unlawful limitation of the right to movement or employment.

They contended that they have been lawfully conducting their trade in quarry works without any intimidation or harassment, until September 2018 when the police began flagging off their lorries carrying construction materials, and detaining and charging them for disobedience of the ban.

It was their argument that despite several request for a copy of the said suspension order, they were yet to be supplied with it. They claimed the ban was discriminatory because high-ranking county officials had been allowed to carry out the trade.

BAN LIFTED

In the judgment at the Garissa High Court last week, Justice Kariuki said it was clear that the group was not consulted by the administration before the ban was imposed.

“This in my view was a breach of the rules of natural justice as provided for under Article 47 of the Constitution,” he said.

Justice Kariuki added that the ban cannot be justified as they ought to have accorded the applicants an opportunity to be heard before imposing the ban.

“The ex parte applicants would have offered their views on how the respondents would best protect the lives of quarry workers from the terrorists, as the said quarry workers earn a living as well as the ex parte applicants,” the judge said.

The court quashed the order banning the extraction or excavation works and supplying of construction materials such as building blocks, concrete or sand from licensed quarries within Mandera East Sub-County.

He said the police should stop harassing, intimidating or arresting, the members of the group or seizing their quarry equipment or motor vehicles.

Source: Daily Nation

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