By MUKAMI MUNGAI
The routine swoops by the police have attracted both condemnation and praise in equal measure. The government launched Operation Usalama Watch on 4th April with an aim to flush out illegal immigrants in the ongoing war on terror. The operation began in Eastleigh; one of the areas that the Government says is a hide out for the Alshabab group. The police conduct door to door searches to flush out illegal immigrants. The operation saw over 4,000 people mostly from the Somali community arrested for having no identification, fake passports, those without a BCG vaccination scar, those who did not speak Kiswahili or English and those with UNHCR cards.
82 Somalis were deported back to their country and 200 charged for being in possession of forged identification cards and passports. This calls into question the issuance of identification documents by the Immigration department. And the Government needs to probe all immigration officers and bring to book those who are involved in the issuance of fake documents. For this to happen, money must be exchanging hands.
Some have condemned the police for human rights violations and extortion. It is alleged that the police is using the opportunity to ask for bribes from those arrested to secure their freedom. The UNHCR has expressed concern over the mass arrests of Somali refugees in Eastleigh. The refugee agency says that the police are treating people from the Somali community in a very inhumane way including old men and women with babies. Somali and ODM members of parliament have come out strongly claiming that the government is only targeting members of one community and this will further polarize the already delicate situation. The Leader of Majority in Parliament Aden Duale has threatened to withdraw support for the Jubilee Coalition if ‘his people’ continue being arrested.
The Interior Ministry has rubbished off the ethnic profilation claims by saying that the police are treating the exercise in the most professional manner. The government says that similar operations are going on in Mombasa and Baragoi.
It is also disheartening for us as Kenyans to see the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani, a historical ground, being turned into a detention camp. Our fore fathers are probably turning in their graves.
There is fear that the Government may be introducing back the Kipande system in the colonial days where it was mandatory for every Kenyan to carry an identification card. However, the Government says that the operation is meant to wipe out elements of terror and ensure the safety of all Kenyans. Since the entry of Kenyan forces in Somali, terror attacks have intensified leaving many Kenyans dead and many more injured. However, the most prolific terror attack in Kenya is the Westgate massacre where over 60 people were killed. The Alshabab took responsibility for the attack warning that more attacks will occur.
It is the casual manner in which the government has taken to curb such incidences that is appalling to say the least. The attacks started in 2011 and one asks himself why it is now the appropriate time for the Government to show its face. Most Government installations for example the airports have for a long time been left unmanned giving terrorists an opportunity to fly in and cause havoc. The Government has always been caught flat footed when such incidences occur. But the most undoing has been the flow of communication. It creates a lot of confusion when the security ministry posts different updates on the state of security. For instance during the Westgate mall attack and the bomb scare at the Kenyatta International Airport.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku has said that there will be no conditional protection for refugees. He added that the only recognized refugee camps in Kenya are Daadab and Kakuma. The two camps are a host to 600,000 refugees. During the pass out parade at Kiganjo recently, the president gave a two week amnesty ultimatum for anyone with illegal firearms to surrender them. But even, as the ultimatum collapses, we have not heard or seen any one come out and surrender.
While answering questions to Kenyans via twitter on Thursday, the Deputy President insisted that the Government is not profiling or practicing religion discrimination. He said that the Government will upgrade equipment including police vehicles. The Government also intends to buy additional helicopters for surveillance and access to areas faster.
But even as the constitution empowers the Government to do everything in its power to protect its citizens, the same constitution also provides rights to any arrested person to be brought before a court as soon as possible but not later than 24 hours after being arrested. Infringing on these rights is contrary to the constitution.
The Government should be careful not to defrenchise Muslims in the name of fighting terror as this will drive the power of radicalization to a higher level and at the same time let us all join hands in fighting terror especially with the Nyumba Kumi Initiative to ensure a safe country.
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