The past four weeks have been filled with much anxiety in the Somali community living in Eastleigh, for good reason.
Up to 4000 people have reportedly been arrested and “screened” at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani, in a security operation dubbed Usalama Watch.
According to the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, Joseph Ole Lenku, the overall objective of Usalama Watch is to “clean up, mop up and get rid of these criminals” in response to terror attacks in Dadaab, Likoni, and Eastleigh.
What should have been a security operation focused on singling out criminal elements within the population of Eastleigh has morphed into a crackdown on illegal immigrants and the unlawful arrest and detaining of refugees and asylum seekers, presumably with the intention of forcibly repatriating the illegal immigrants to their home countries and relocating the refugees and asylum seekers to Dadaab camp from where, it is presumed, they came.
C.S. Ole Lenku has claimed in an interview with Nation TV that they have suspects whom they can prove to be criminals in a court of law. Yet the poor results from such a wide-spread “crackdown” are alarming. Despite having arrested thousands, the number of actual arrivals at Dadaab is as low as a total of 79 urban dwelling refugees and asylum seekers as at 19 April, 2014, according to the UNHCR Dadaab Situation report.
The 79 were transported to Dadaab Camps by the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) from the Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani, Nairobi. Among them were 41 Somalis, 36 Ethiopians, 1 Cameroonian and 1 Kenyan.
READ: UNHCR Dadaab Situation report [PDF]
With only 79 people arriving at Dadaab in the crackdown so far, one has to wonder what happened to the 4000 people arrested. Administration Police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi, in an interview with Al-Jazeera’s social media show ‘The Stream’, claimed that a majority of the people arrested were simply processed through and later released. AP Spokesman Masoud Mwinyi was of the belief at the time of the show that Usalama Watch had resulted in peace and better security in Eastleigh area, citing that no terror attacks had occurred since the start of the operation.
CHILDREN KEPT FROM PARENTS
Mr. Mwinyi’s remarks were immediately overshadowed by a horrific blast at Pangani Police station in which four people, including two police officers, lost their lives, putting paid to the claim that Usalama Watch has been effective in preventing terror attacks.
In the face of forced transfers in which family members are separated, children kept from their parents and individuals not allowed to collect their belongings, the furor raised by human rights organizations is quite justified.
Repeatedly, the call for a systematic and strategic plan in dealing with those arrested in a humane manner has been ignored, or shouted down by proponents of the security operation. The consistent illogical argument put forth by pro-regime activists is “What do you want the police to do? They have no choice!” Well, actually, they do have a choice, several choices in fact.
Foremost, the security apparatus in this country needs to consolidate its actions nationally. There is a clear and obvious disconnect between the actions and standard procedures applied by police in Dadaab camps versus the conduct of police towards urban based refugees and asylum seekers.
According to an feature story by Al Jazeera, the latter have repeatedly complained of police brutality, physical assaults, rape, and damage to property as well as demands for bribes from police officers. It is disheartening that the police have yet to own up to their excesses. Police Spokesperson Zipporah Mboroki underscored this consistent denial in her statement where she stated that the police force had not received any complaints from the public about the operation adding that anyone can take their grievances to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority”.
In all of this, the plight of those being arrested seems to have been completely swept under the rug. The first casualties of Usalama Watch were a 40-year-old Somali woman, Zeynab Mohamed Muse "Bulhan", a refugee who was hospitalized and died two days later, and Mohamed Kadiye Robe, 67, who reportedly died of shock after his whole family was arrested. He suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.
In the course of the activities being conducted under Usalama Watch, it seems that no ethnic Somali has been spared. Somalians, Kenyan nationals and journalists were all harassed. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent Malkhadir Muhumed, a Kenyan ethnic Somali was arrested and held incommunicado for 3 days and subjected to humiliating searches. His “crime” was entering a detention camp with a video camera. His equipment was only returned to him with the video deleted. It is hard not to believe so many reports of human rights abuses all of which share a singular consistent theme of targeted, ethnic profiling.
Given the paltry numbers of both returnees and deportees, it is clear that the racially motivated approach to Usalama Watch and the subsequent crackdown on illegal immigrants has had little to no impact on securing the country against terrorist action. It is also obvious that the police are too under-resourced, poorly trained and ill-equipped to successfully engage terrorists in successful warfare. These terrorists seem to have no qualms at all conducting warfare among civilian populations, including ethnic Somali communities.
It’s a real travesty that the police choose to visit abuse on the very same population targeted by the terrorists, leaving much doubt as to who is protector or persecutor between them and the terrorists.