Al-Shabaab’s ranks swelling thanks to Kenyan police brutality towards Somali migrants
Police brutality carried out in Kenya against Somali migrants, which is intended to root out potential members of Islamic terror group al-Shabaab, may in fact be radicalising the youth, many of whom are are refugees from the political unrest in their country.
Pictures showing policemen flogging suspected members of Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab were originally posted on Facebook by Michale Orita, a senior police officer from Garissa, capital of Garissa county.
He later took the pictures down but the caption that went with them remained. It read: “Somali young men [who] came to Garissa for a purpose but little did they know we are smarter than them.”
Al-Shabaab is notorious for carrying out attacks in Kenya in retaliation for the deployment of its troops in Somalia. In April, the militants attacked a university college in Garissa killing 148 people.
Abuses in the name of fight against terror
There have lately be warnings about increasing police violence against Somalis in a refugee camp in Dadaab in Garissa county, which the Kenyan government believes is used by Somali extremists to enter the country.
Kenyan police paranoia about repeated terror attacks have resulted in widespread brutality: a 2012 report by Human Right Watch also documented widespread human right abuses by Kenyan police against refugees following terror attacks.
Somali human rights activist Khalif Abdi Farah, who lives in northern Kenya, told IBTimes UK: “What police are doing to Somali youths in Garissa is inhumane, police are actually radicalising the youths.”
“By torturing them daily, they are pushing them to join Al- Shabaab. If you are tortured and your sisters are raped by KDF [Kenya Defence Forces] soldiers, what will you do?”
Farah, who is coordinator of the Northern forum for democracy, a human rights organisation based in Garissa, said Somali migrants are victims of attacks every day and the international community has failed to address the issue.
“People are just taken from their houses and killed, women are raped. Nobody speaks about human rights abuses in northern Kenya and it is time to change. We need the international community to speak up because we cannot keep talking about torture, rape and death every year.
“The Somali Community are doing well in business in Kenya and President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Kikuyu [the largest ethnic group in Kenya] feel threatened by this.”
He said Somali migrants who are allegedly victims of abuses by police do not speak up for fear of further persecution.
“Kenya uses the excuse of Shabaab to harass Somalis. We are tired of police brutality.”
A civilian from northern Kenya, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told IBTimes UK: “Security agencies in the region are committing abuses daily in the name of fighting terror. It’s inhumane and a violation of our rights.
“We feel abandoned and isolated in our country. The region has been turned into a police military state.”
Garissa county commissioner James Kianda was quoted as saying: “The officers who posted the photos and others involved will face disciplinary action, of course subject to validation. This is not how we want to fight terrorism.”
Both the Office of the President and the police in Kenya declined to comment for this article.