Attractions in Wajir County
1. Lake Yahud
As Wajir turned a new leaf after decades of dissent and unrest – with the last major dust-up passing off in 1994 as the Ajuraan and Degodia came to blows – so did its security and governance, as well as that of much of Northern Kenya, improve dramatically. Similarly, Wajir Town steadily flourished as a hub that connected northeastern Kenya. And nowhere is this headway better exemplified than at the modern Wajir International Airport that’s in direct communication with JKIA in Nairobi and other airports. It was built between 1977-1978 by the HZ Israeli Construction Company. On September 7th, 2007, Wajir Airport was commissioned – to officially accommodate both passenger and military flights. One of the rare and interesting changes to the landscape after its construction was Lake Yahud, a permanent lake located in the periphery area of Wajir Town that is cordially described by the locals as “the primitive Jewish Lake that never lacks water”. Lake Yahud was formed as a result of quarrying for materials for construction of Wajir Airport in the 1970’s. Once this massive quarry filled with water, the lake formed and named “Yahud” after an affable Jewish contractor at the airport. Lake Yahud is located 5 kms east of Wajir Town near Wajir Airport.
2. Wagalla Monument
The Wagalla Monument commemorates the 4-days massacre of February 10th, 1984, which unravelled at Wajir Airport and one of the most gut-wrenching and eerie chapters in the history of Kenya. Wagalla Massacre sprung as a remedial effort to disarm the fierce Degodia Clan, as a way to mitigate the perpetual and ever-greater clan related conflicts which were spiraling out of control. After the initial plans failed, thousands of people were delivered to Wajir Airport, mainly from Degodia Clan, where they were kept hungry for days on end and ordered to strip naked and lie on the scorching-hot ground. On February 10th, 1984, all hell broke loose when the government forces opened fire at Wajir Airport. The official Government report claimed that only 54 people died. The natives claim as many as 5,000 lost their lives. Perhaps the transformation in governance and security at one of the most previously insecure, ungoverned, and impoverished zones in Kenya was a state failure, or perhaps the long period of emergency rule had inclined the callous action, or, it may be that, the actions to reclaim control over the territory were altogether misjudged. What is certain is that the Wagalla Massacre had spooked the nation to no end. Wagalla Monument, at Korahey, in Wajir Town, unveiled on February 14th, 2014 to mark the 30th anniversary, has the names of 482 victims engraved on marble and pasted on a wall. The names were retrieved from the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report. To date, survivors and families of victims meet here each anniversary to renew their resolve to seek justice. “The only tangible milestone the suffering families have achieved so far is the acknowledgment, through the TJRC Report, that the Wagalla Massacre was drafted and executed by their own government.”
3. Old Town Wajir
The British colonial enterprise arrived at Wajir somewhere around 1905 to an indignant welcome by all the factions of the Somali clans. Rather nonchalance about the ongoing differences of opinion among these clans, they opted to arm some and suppress others, and leave the outcome of it to fate. Henceforth, they sympathized with the Ajuraan, who considered themselves to be the “original” inhabitants of much of this region and enjoyed protected access to Wajir West under the British colonial system. Exacerbated by the firepower provided by the colonial forces and changing clan demographics arising from the Somali Civil War surely led to endemic tension among the three big clans (Ajuraan, Degodia and Ogaden) over rights to pasture and wells. In any case, they themselves (the British) were entangles in an awkward fall-out with Italian-Somalia (Jubaland) having revised the boundary of Kenya to include the Northern Frontier District, and what the Italians rightfully regarded as being ‘annexed’ from their territory.
In a looming showdown with the Italians, the British officially established Wajir Town around 1912 to serve as the colonial headquarters. Only two other towns in Kenya were established prior: Malindi and Old Town Mombasa. Wajir Town was primarily a military outpost, just round the corner from the boundary with Italian-Somalia. In due course, an installment of small wars between the British and Italians ensued between 1920’s and 1930’s. At the last, in 1940, the British forces embarked on an all-out encounter to divisively expel the Italians, in a war climaxed in the spectacular showdown of aerial military strength on September 19, 1940, near Fort Elwak (176 kms northeast of Wajir Town). The rich history of Old Town Wajir as a military base can still be seen in the numerous old war bunkers, tunnels, wells and cells from the British Empire Era. Wajir Town, and Wajir County in general, has withered its fair share of dark times of war arising from colonial brutality, clan conflicts and even regional wars but, the people of Wajir are stout and undaunted by its past. Today, Wajir is a peaceful little town.
4. Orahey Wells
There are two or three endearing interpretations and insights offered regarding the origin and operation of the ancient Orahey Wells at Old Town Wajir. Some of the locals suggest the original Orahey Wells date back over 1,000 years, when “Queen of Sheba” (the monarch mentioned in the Bible and then in later works who travels to Jerusalem to experience the wisdom of King Solomon) watered her herds of camels here. In his chronicles of Wajir, or the country between the Juba River and Lake Rudolf, Lieutenant L. Aylmer, in 1911, described the area as having numerous wells cut straight down in solid rock and deduced correctly that a more industrious tribe than the present inhabitants was responsible for the digging of the wells. In 1912, C.W. Haywood, on his voyage from Kismayu to Meru, in an effort to discover whether the Ewaso Nyiro flows out of the Lorian Swamp, passed through Wajir and described the wells there as being only about 6 ft., deep and dug in “a kind of grey sandstone”. Then and now, Orahey Wells are strategic in the migration routes of the nomads and a germane interest for visitors to Wajir. The latter-day Orahey Wells were sunk in the early 1970’s by the Italians Prisoners of War, and these helped develop Wajir Town. Orahey in Somali means “place with a lot sun” and the Orahey Wells are their vital lifeline.
5. Orahey Bunkers
To others the term Orahey also means “hot open fields,” with reference to the open fields near Old Town Wajir and the centre of activity during colonial rule in Wajir. These windswept fields, where the communal Orahey Wells abound, are scattered with a handful of Italian built bunkers and derelict British Empire defensive structures. Also seen at Orahey are intricate systems of trenches, gun turrets or wingers and bunkers used by the Italians and British during WW II. Also of interest near Orahey Bunkers are some of Wajir’s oldest buildings which include Wajir Museum, the old houses built by Italians, an old court house and the old Mosque, all which help connect trippers to Wajir’s long amusing history.