Usalama Watch: State is fracturing Kenyan society

Saturday April 19 2014

 

By L. Muthoni Wanyeki

The ongoing “screening” operation continues, but the official numbers do not add up.

We are told 1,136 have been “screened” to date. Which reportedly includes: 186 released; 313 charged; 412 illegally removed to Dadaab and Kakuma camps; 225 scheduled for deportation; and 82 deported to Somalia. That total is 1,218. The numbers in each category do not add up either.

The removal of the 412 found to be “genuine” refugees to Dabaab and Kakuma camps goes against a High Court judgment of 2012, affirming the right of refugees to live anywhere in the country.

The directive in support of this removal — ordering the closure of all urban refugee registration centres and the forced encampment — violates a similar High Court order of July 2013.

While acting in contempt of High Court orders, the state has demonstrated an adroit slipperiness in responding to public concerns. When accused of holding those targeted in the operation overnight in Kasarani stadium, it was quick to point to its gazettement of the stadium as a place of detention.

And to allege that all targeted were spending their nights in police stations, separated by age and gender as required. This is contrary to testimonies by those targeted.

When accused of denying access to Kasarani to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Kenya Red Cross, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, local and international human-rights, humanitarian and media organisations, it was quick to organise choreographed access — but only on advance notice and at its discretion.

When accused of violations of the principle of non-refoulement, it was quick to allege that it was not deporting “genuine” refugees, but “illegal immigrants.” This, of course, sweeps under the carpet the fact that the registration process for refugees was stalled some time ago.

When accused of ethnic profiling, it was quick to order that non-Somalis also be targeted. Look, says the state, we’ve even scheduled for deportation one American and one German!

But by far the bulk of those deported (82) and those scheduled for deportation are Somalis — 82 and 214 of 314. This does not ignore, of course, the fact that this tactic means that other African communities used as window-dressing are now living in fear as well.

However, as the operation progresses, its biggest lie has been exposed. Officially, we are told we cannot have the figures of those charged with criminal offences relating to terrorism because “investigations are ongoing.”

The fact is that most of those charged are being charged with immigration-related offences. A journalist in discussion with a senior Anti-Terrorism Police Unit officer tells of the ATPU’s alleged frustration with the whole operation — for breaking down its intelligence networks, having nothing to do with counter-terrorism and the likelihood of blowback.

So is counter-terrorism merely an excuse to keep public fear and xenophobia high, to induce our acquiescence? In effect, the state is fracturing Kenya — Kenyan Somalis are in fear and shock.

As for the excuse of counter-terrorism, Al Shabaab has just called on all Muslims in Kenya to resist — by any and all means necessary. We are not safer. We have created more grievance. We have exposed ourselves to attack — yet again.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International regional director for East Africa. This column is written in her personal capacity

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