Dadaab is a center for moderation, not radicalization


By Betty Waitherero

On the night of 3rd April 2014, 3 blasts were heard in the Dadaab airstrip in Northern Kenya during the incident, no one was injured but the main gate was completely destroyed. The unknown assailants were said to have accessed the area on motorbikes.

In Dadaab, there have been about 21 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) found since 2011, but in the camp the police have not thus far been extra-judicial in their responses.

This is a marked contradiction to the police responses in Mombasa and Nairobi. Last week alone, over 3000 people were arrested in swoops, including women and young children. An overwhelming majority of those arrested were Somali, and a large number were documented Kenyans, some not of Somali ethnicity.

It is true that Kenya has suffered greatly for its activities in Somalia; in 2011 Kenya launched operation “Linda Nchi” a military incursion into Somalia with the aim of fighting Al-Shabaab and recovering or “freeing” towns where the Al-Shabaab militia had taken over. Al-Shabaab is an offshoot of the Al-Qaeda network, created in 2006 and led by Ahmed Abdi Godane also known as Mukhtar Ali Zubeyr. Godane recently urged Somalis to fight their age-old enemy Ethiopia.


It has been the group’s approach to claim responsibility for attacks in Somalia and Kenya by announcing it to the media.  Andalus FM in Mogadishu is the main radio station they utilize to state their claims and reasons after attacks in Somalia.

After the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility through their representative Abu Mansur Al-Amriki, who demanded that Kenya withdraw its troops from Somalia. When they choose to do so, not only do Al-Shabaab announce that they are responsible for attacks, but they also allow journalists to interview them on the matter, as was seen with Abu Mansur’s extensive interaction with the international media. It is quite surprising then that the Al-Shabaab has not staked a claim to the attacks in Likoni, Eastleigh or Dadaab.

It’s hard to say why these attacks take on the form that they do, and the police are yet to report on what their investigations reveal. But more importantly the subsequent targeting and profiling of Somali refugees by the Kenya government is quite concerning.

Security in Dadaab can be said to be moderate on average; the people there live in fear of Al-Shabaab more than they fear government forces. If one were to make a comparison, the refugees find Dadaab safer than Somalia. They are simply civilians, and when the government blames them, it lends to a feeling of being targeted because of being Somali. All Somalis are not criminals, Al-Shabaab exists but they kill Somalis as well.

The profiling of Somali refugees is now the national narrative; when there is an attack in Mombasa or Nairobi, fingers point to Dadaab. But the reality is that Dadaab may indeed be more secure than other towns in Kenya.

Dadaab is at least the fourth-largest town in Kenya although resources there are very scarce. It has been a sanctuary for Somali people fleeing oppression in Somalia. It provides a haven for people to gain an education and make a life for themselves.  It has become a place for moderation rather than radicalization.


In addition, Kenya has signed and ratified a tripartite agreement between the UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia. The document, in which Kenya agrees to its legal obligations towards asylum seekers and refugees from Somalia, is explicit in its detail.

Despite this, the government’s tone now is “you will go or you will go”.

For the 20 years that Dadaab has existed it has become a place for moderation rather than radicalization. In that time, the police have learned to deal with the people in such a manner as to gain co-operation from them. With about 500 police operating in the area, there has been a noted improvement in the conduct of the police force with regards to raids.

It is quite clear that not all government departments are in harmony with the negativity stemming from the Internal Security Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Ole Lenku who has directed that “all urban based refugees should be relocated to Dadaab.” CS Ole Lenku’s directives show that he lacks a reflection of the reality in Dadaab, and as regards the refugees; he doesn’t seem to get the bigger picture.

It is the refugees who have suffered the most under terror groups such as Al-Shabaab, and it is the refugees who are quick to report any member of these terror organizations.

It is quite disconcerting that the police in Nairobi and Mombasa have yet to adopt the same level of professionalism as their peers in Dadaab; they need to be able to identify who is a criminal and who isn’t rather than arresting the whole neighborhood as they have done in Eastleigh where old men, women and children were all arrested in night-time raids.

Moreover, it is time for the security forces in Kenya to acknowledge that Al-Shabaab could be entering the country through other entry points and not just Dadaab. There need to be genuine efforts to secure these access points across the nation, rather than pinning the blame on the one town where Al-Shabaab are not likely to hide.

Twitter: @bettywaitherero





About Author

NepJournal is Northern Kenya's online newspaper. It is also a space where the leading thinkers and writers from the region bring you unsolicited and uncensored views, analysis and opinion from the region and beyond.

Comments are closed.