MANDERA, Kenya — As the border gate opened early in the morning, minibuses dropped off passengers, donkey-led carts trotted through and pedestrians began to cross freely on foot, heading in both directions.
The Kenyan guards standing beside the empty border offices casually watched the stream of humanity coming in and out of the country. The many family, economic and educational ties straddling both sides of the border are just too entrenched to make any real dividing line practical, many local residents say.
But the recent attacks by the Shabab, the extremist Somali group that has killed hundreds of people in Kenya in the past two years, have given rise to an ambitious national proposal that is supposed to begin right here: an enormous barrier along the 424-mile border with Somalia.
“All the problems come from that side,” said Abdi Billow, 60, a Kenyan of ethnic Somali descent from this town.
This distant northern corner of Kenya has suffered the brunt of some of the violence, including attacks on a bus of teachers over Christmas and on workers at a quarry last year, where Christians were separated from Muslims and shot.