Kenya uses terror attacks to stigmatize and oppress the Somali ethnic community


By Betty Waitherero – Nation


In response to the Likoni church shooting in which 6 people were killed and 15 others injured, Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa issued a shoot-to-kill order in which he claimed that it is counter-productive to take terror suspects to court because it is very difficult find witnesses in their prosecution.

This directive caused uproar among the civil society who termed it illegal and an affront to the legitimate efforts to combat attacks. By Friday, 28th March, the Inspector General of police Mr. David Kimaiyo had announced to the media that the police should ignore the shoot-to-kill order by the Mombasa County Commissioner.

In the time that it took the Inspector General to give directions on the shoot-to-kill order, the police had rounded up 100 villagers in the search for the terror suspects, detained 59 people and apparently charged 49 of them for “loitering”.  In Nairobi, tens of youth were arrested in a swoop in one of the suburbs, many of whom were later released.

As a response to the security situation, Kenya has ordered all urban-based Somali refugees to move into designated camps in a bid to end attacks by militant Islamists. The Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security Joseph ole Lenku further stated that “Any refugee found flouting this directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law”.


This new plan by the Kenya government seeks to force 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers back to under-resourced and already overcrowded refugee camps in direct violation of a 2013 High Court ruling that declared such forced movement of refugees a violation of their dignity and rights to freedom of movement that would indirectly force them to move back to Somalia.

In addition, the July 2013 ruling found that there was no proven correlation of the restriction of refugees to the refugee camps and national security issues.

It is not the first time that the Kenyan authorities move to use completely unlawful and illegal means to target members of Muslim community and Somali ethnicity regardless of their citizenry. It is part of the national narrative that all terrorists in Kenya are Muslims and all Somalis are terror suspects. Kenya is once again using attacks by terrorists to stigmatize, target and harass refugees and people of Somali ethnicity.

In a report named “You are all Terrorists” released in 2013, the Human Rights Watch interviewed 101 refugees and Kenyans of Somali ethnicity in which they document torture, rape, extortion and arbitrary detention of individuals in Eastleigh area of Nairobi.

The report details the extent to which the police will go in abusing the rights of refugees in Kenya – one woman narrates how she was walking home when she was accosted by regular police, who beat her, put her in the police vehicle, raped her and dumped her in an unknown location. There was no reason for this brutal attack, other than to rape and abuse this woman.

Even as terror attacks increase in frequency in Kenya, the government engages in atrocities that have nothing whatsoever to do with national security, acts that do not bring about investigations nor arrests of actual criminals, acts of government-sanctioned terror.


In this “war against terror” women and children are targeted based on their ethnic heritage regardless of whether they are refugees or Kenyan citizens. To add a shoot-to-kill order on top of such flagrant human rights abuses is to increase the frequency of extra-judicial killings by rogue police officers who utilize government resources and their authority to attack women and children.

It’s been one week since the Likoni attack. Tens of people have been arrested, and two “suspects” killed. Thus far, no investigative report has been brought forward indicating how resources were utilized or to what extent the activities of the police have managed to increase security for civilians around the country. Despite the killings of “suspects” and the arrests done, not a single terror group has come forward to claim responsibility for the church attack and not a single government official is able to pin-point exactly who was responsible for the attack.

In the meantime – the ugly xenophobic narrative being spun by government against Muslims and people of Somali ethnicity is swallowed whole by the Kenyan public who feel that it is indeed plausible that women and children who are asylum seekers could be behind terror attacks in Kenya, which is why they should be forced back into refugee camps.

Whenever there are terror attacks in Kenya, there is a huge uproar over the loss of innocent lives; but when the police target people because of their ethnicity, no one remembers that these human rights abuses are themselves meted out on innocent people.





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