OPINION / FIKRAD
The secretly funded Azania State project concocted by few powerful leaders of the Kenyan Government in collusion with a shortsighted group of Somali-Kenyan politicians has crippled the political unity and the struggle of the Somali Kenyans for gaining their rights as Kenyan citizens after years of massacre as well as of oppressive and discriminatory treatment. The Somali-Kenyan supporters of the Azania state project, relegated to aiding and abetting role, failed to have a foresight of the far reaching political and security implications of a Kenyan military intervention in Somalia in the light of the past history and UN security resolutions. The project sowed social discord among communities living in the project area of Somalia and undermined the collective harmony and trust existed among the Somali Kenyans. The sufferings inflicted on the Somali Kenyans surpassed the imagined benefits from a client administration called Azania State in Jubba and Gedo regions of Somalia after the defeat of the militant Islamist group Al Shabab.
In the last decade, with many problems yet to be addressed and resolved, the overall prospect of the political situation of the Somali Kenyans looked hopeful because of the democratic process undertaken in Kenya. But the chaos generated by the Azania State project has trumped the constitutional freedom, dignity and respect of the citizens of ethnic Somalis and unleashed indiscriminate violence against them for any terrorist incident committed by unknown criminals. The project made the Somali Kenyans collectively and simultaneously victims and villains blamed for crimes beyond their control and responsibility.
In 1963, before independence, the Somali Kenyans voted overwhelmingly to join the Somali Republic but their choice was rejected and forcibly united with the Republic of Kenya. That vote and the initial attempt to resist the forced unification with Kenya, which was confronted with brutal force, earned them the distinction of un-patriots. They have been treated like conquered people and suffered years of well documented atrocities.
Heartbreaking massacres took place between 1963 to 2001 in many parts of the Somali Kenyan districts like Garissa (Modogoshe), Wajir (Wagalla), and Mandera ( Malka-Mari, Garse, Darakali, Dandu and Takaba). The Kenyan Government employed all kinds of policies of extermination, rape, starvation, oppression, impoverishment, exclusion and marginalization against the Somali Kenyans. The area inhabited by the Somali Kenyans has been under state of emergency rule for more than 30 years. The Kenyan majority leaders wanted the land of Northern Front District (NFD) but not the inhabitants.
At last, the Kenyan Government accepted in 2010 the establishment of a national Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commission (TJRC) that investigates the Wagalla massacre, described as the worst human rights violations in Kenya’s history and other human rights violations. Late Minister of Labor and MP of Wajir Ahmed Khalif Mohamed told the Kenyans and the world the Wagalla massacre in which more than 5,000 Somali Kenyans were killed on February 10, 1984. In November 2010, Ambassador Bethuel Kipligat, former Chairman of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference 2002-2004 in Kenya has been forced to resign from his position of Chairman of TJRC because he was one of the high officials who attended the security meeting that ordered the massacre.
Clampdowns and putdowns continued as part of the daily life of the Somali Kenyans. This harsh treatment fueled from time to time sporadic agitations responded with indiscriminate violence and abuses by the Kenyan security forces. The Somali Northeastern Province (NEP) has been branded as “prohibited zone”, “Nothing Except Problems” province. Special courts in the province had the power to mete out death penalty without due process. The simple perception that Somali Kenyans are sympathetic towards their brethren of Somalia has been sufficient reason for harsh treatment against them. Even the Northeastern Provincial commissioner Mohamud Salah, was not spared from the abuse of power of the Kenyan security forces stationed in the area because he was arrested and booked several times for strolling in town during the night.
Since the Kenya’s invasion into Somalia, crackdowns and mass arrests intensified in Wajir, Mandera and other areas the Somali Kenyans live. Fear and anger rose high in the local population. More than 100 Somali Kenyan citizens have been arrested after a bomb exploded near the Dadaab refugee camp killing one Kenyan officer and wounding others. In another incident, 50 individuals have been arrested when a bomb blew up a security officer car in Mandera. Reports of widespread beatings, broken bones and miscarriage of women are available. These are examples of collective punishments of the Somali Kenyans.
In support of the Kenya’s military operation in Somalia, on October 26, 2011, the Minister of Immigration of Kenya, Mr. Otieno Kajwang said, “no Somali will be issued with a Kenyan identity card until it is proven beyond doubt that they are Kenyans, especially in Mombasa, Garissa, Lamu and border Areas. It is important that we do this because of the situation the country is facing right now. Every person of Somali origin will have to be subjected to thorough scrutiny before they are issued with ID.” He called on Kenyans “to cooperate with the police and give information about suspicious people in their neighborhoods.” This policy statement has endangered the lives of many Somali Kenyans in different parts of Kenya.
Many youths of Somali Kenyans who completed the high school education gave up on the opportunity to continue their higher education or apply for jobs as other Kenyan citizens because of the lack of ID. Mothers and fathers attempted to enroll their Kenyan children in the refugee camps after their children were denied their legitimate ID. To differentiate from other Kenyan citizens and make them target as a national security risk, Somali Kenyans receive pink ID. Thus, possession of regular documents did not offer protection to Somali Kenyans from intimidation, harassment and detention unless they pay bribes to their tormentors. This marginalization and exclusion could generate resentment, anger and militancy that will harm the long term stability and progress of Kenya and neighboring countries.
The Kenyan national media has been biased and published in the past inflammatory articles that fuelled anger and hatreds towards the Somali Kenyans. Still, it is prone to not report the abuses of the security forces going on against the Somali Kenyans particularly during the current military operation protect the nation (Kenya) inside Somalia. Henry Makori has written an article critical of the Kenya media in bed with the military in Somalia. However, the international media mitigates that moral failure.
The Azania State project has trapped the Somali Kenyans in an unbearable situation and it has diluted the political fortune achieved through political unity in the democratic transition period. The Somali Kenyan politicians have the responsibility to defend the human rights of their people and to be vigilant to the national policies that compromise the strategic interests of their communities as Somali Kenyans.
Mr. Mohamud M. Uluso