By: Muhammad Ali:
October 2011, Kenya sent its troops to Somalia where Islamist militant group Al shabaab pitched tent. The future of the beautiful country was hanging in the balance since the civil war started after the fall of the Siyad Bare government in 1991 which forced many Somalis into exile across the Globe.
The aim of sending troops was to stabilize the ailing Somalia and to save them from the hand of the cruel shabaab. President Kenyatta on one occasion said, ‘’we will stay there until they bring order in their Nation’’.
Shabaab misinterprets the teachings of the Holy Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace, Blessings and Salutations Be upon Him). And for this reason people who have no in-depth knowledge of Islam accuse Muslims of killing innocent people. Islam is derived from the Arabic word ‘’SALAAM’’ meaning to ‘’SURRENDER’’. It also means ‘’PEACE’’. It’s not only ignorance but also foolhardy to therefore judge a whole community or faith for what misguided individuals do.
Shabaab militants took advantage of young men who are basically helpless. They recruit and delude them with the fact that killing innocent people would secure them a ticket to Heaven. This is contrary to the Quranic teaching that clearly stipulates killing one innocent life is like killing the whole of humanity.
Everyday shabaab kill dozens of people regardless of the faith they belong to in schools, homes, restaurants and worship places. They destroy properties worth millions of shillings. They are just merciless. No amount of tenderness is in them. No sense of humanity.
They are fearless and they have the guts to carry out attacks in heavily fortified places in the Capital Mogadishu. Even Parliament and the Presidential palace are not spared. In February 2014, the group attacked the palace blasting through a gate with a car bomb and engaging police guarding it in a fierce gun battle that left 14 people dead.
Assassination is another heart attack, they kill anyone who is opposing them and taking their issues lightly or mocking them for that matter.
In April Somali firing squad executed Hassan Hanafi, a broadcast journalist with Al shabaab who eased the killing of his five fellow reporters. He would threaten journalists if they refuse to join the militants. In Somalia, Journalist are put on surveillance every now and then. Some have fled the country because of the constant threat by Al shabaab, many were killed and others went into hiding while many others just quit the noble profession. It really hurts when the messenger becomes the target. But to Al shabaab it’s a massive victory. More than 25 journalist have been killed since 2007 according to the committee to protect journalists.
Somalia has the largest coast line in Africa with many beaches. It’s a country of staggering beauty, but because of Shabaab insurgency the country is Shaky. In January, shabaab gunmen attacked one of the most popular beaches in Mogadishu, the Lido Beach. It was Thursday which means most people are free and would perhaps have some fun at the beaches.
What happened when Kenya sent its troops to join the African Union that was keeping peace in Somalia? There were other countries who also sent their troops to Somalia but ironically Kenya a peace loving country became the soft target of Al shabaab.
They were retaliating for the operation dubbed LINDA NCHI which begun in 2011. The militants started sending threats to Kenya with possible attacks if they don’t withdraw their troops from Somalia. But the Government of Kenya stayed put. The result was attack after attack, innocent Kenyans were killed day in day out and Shabaab were smiling.
One of the deadliest terror attacks was that of April 2, 2015 in Garissa University College where 147 young men and women were killed by the militant group Al shabaab. Heavily armed attackers stormed the university early morning killing two security guards thereafter firing on students indiscriminately. More than 500 students managed to escape, 79 of whom were injured. Why kill innocent people, again students? Cruel, Shabaab.
In September 2013, four gunmen attacked the Westage Shopping Mall where 67 Kenyans were killed and over 150 injured. The gunmen believed to be linked to Somali terrorist group moved through the mall, shooting shoppers in the head. Hours later the mall’s gleaming floors were smeared with blood as police officers dashed through the corpse-strewn corridors trying to find the assailants. The gunmen were freeing anyone who pronounce the Islamic shahada and shoot indiscriminately anyone who failed to. This was meant to create enmity between Muslims and Non-Muslims.
So what happened in the aftermath of Westgate attack? The government launched an operation dubbed USALAMA WATCH which was intended to curb insecurity and flush out Al shabaab. The security agencies started collective punishment, assuming all Somalis were Al shabaab or their sympathizers. The operation despite receiving critics from the international world made many Somalis to be deported back to Somalia. While more than 1,000 Somalis were held in Kasarani Sports Stadium which was at the time labelled by some people as ‘Kasarani Concentration Camp’.
On April 2, 2014, police started arresting people without identity document in Somalis dominated suburb of Eastleigh following a blast in the area on March 31, 2014 which killed six people. Many international groups like the United Nation Refugee Agency have been denied access to monitor how arrested people are treated. The round-up has caused outcry on twitter with people using the hashtag #kasaraniconcentrationcamp to voice anger.
‘’Kenyan Somalis are NOT terrorists, it’s insulting to justify the profiling of an entire community as ‘terrorists’, tweeted Gitobu Imanyara, Lawyer and former MP. Police swoop targeted any Somali in Eastleigh which is largely inhabited by Somalis. They tortured and extorted money from the residents making Somalis feel targeted by the police.
Even yours Truly was not spared and was once a victim. One day I was rushing to a function and on phone, when a muscular police officer grabbed my hand prompting to disconnect whoever I was speaking to, ‘’tunajua hii ujanja’’ (we know this trick) said the officer. To him wearing a kanzu (Muslim dress) and having a beautifully well-trimmed beard qualifies one to be Terrorist. I told him “leave me I can walk” and he then directed me to a waiting police van. Perhaps they wanted me buy my freedom but that was one thing I was certainly not going to allow. After 20 minutes of enjoying police protection. They released me. Sadly, this is how our security agencies combat terrorism.
They must work together with all people in the society, making use of every information they get. Acting and discharging their duties in a professional manner without torture and harassment and of course without fear and favour, and most importantly crippling corruption.
The writer is a Nep Journal contributor and comments on social issues.