Usalama Watch a mask for forcible displacement

PHOTO | AFP Kenyan paramilitary officers perform a search on a vehicle at the entrance to the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium on April 8, 2014, where people were rounded up during a police swoop in the city's Eastleigh area. Somalis on social media are saying that since the bus explosions in Mombasa and Nairobi last week, it has become difficult for them to take public transport.

What you need to know:

  • The government essentially sees this intricate problem as one that is, in essence, a Somali and Muslim problem. Such characterisation of a most complex problem betrays the true motive of the government.
  • The exercise, by design, zeroed in on Eastleigh, South C and other suburbs of Nairobi that are predominantly inhabited by Kenyan Somalis.
    The government indiscriminately rounded up Somalis and detained them for screening.
  • They are that tens of thousands of Somali refugees have acquired Kenyan identity papers, or that local politicians falsified the numbers.

It is exactly a month since the government launched Usalama Watch. The exercise was initially rationalised as an anti-terrorist operation devised to address runaway insecurity in many parts of the country.

The government essentially sees this intricate problem as one that is, in essence, a Somali and Muslim problem. Such characterisation of a most complex problem betrays the true motive of the government.

Only the politically naive saw the exercise as another kneejerk reaction to widespread national insecurity.

In reality, judging by the swiftness, scope and the scale of the exercise, Usalama Watch was meticulously planned.

It was not lost on observers that Western diplomats rushed to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and gave their governments’ blessings.

This exercise is informed by one of the central pillars of the present administration. That policy is defined by both containment and confrontation of what it sees as a Somali and Muslim threat to national stability and cohesion.

The exercise, by design, zeroed in on Eastleigh, South C and other suburbs of Nairobi that are predominantly inhabited by Kenyan Somalis.
The government indiscriminately rounded up Somalis and detained them for screening.

In the midst of the exercise, and with nil result either in terms of arresting terrorists or confiscating huge caches of firearms, the government changed the narrative. And conveniently so. Usalama Watch was re-launched as an exercise to weed out illegal aliens. Again, the government’s motive was betrayed by its actions.

Yet the target remained the same areas that were selected for the anti-terrorist phase of Usalama Watch.

But, even in this regard, what are the verifiable achievements of the exercise? If the exercise had achieved its objectives, why isn’t the government sharing the results with Kenyans? If the exercise was a success, why have Eastleigh and South C estates remained under a security siege these past 30 days? If it has failed miserably, why not call it off?

Some superficial analyses have been given by many on why the government is targeting Eastleigh and other Somali neighbourhoods in Nairobi.
These include that members of the community are emerging as an economic and political powerhouse in the country. Or that the community wields more political power than it deserves.

COVERT DESIGNS

Such analyses are a fallacious disinformation peddled by intelligence and security organs to hide their covert and long-term designs. Somalis, 50 years after independence, remain poor and politically marginalised.

A critical and objective appraisal of Usalama Watch shows that it was designed and executed for the single purpose of addressing and arresting what security organs see as a demographic explosion of the Somali population in the last 15 years the last national census showed a dramatic increase in the Somali population.

A number of false hypotheses have been developed by security agencies for these demographic trends.

They are that tens of thousands of Somali refugees have acquired Kenyan identity papers, or that local politicians falsified the numbers.

The truth is simple. The birth rate among the Somali is almost four times the national average. This, coupled with a decrease in infant mortality rates, improvements in general health standards and the return of polygamous marriages as fashionable communal trends, inform that rise.

There is another factor in play in Eastleigh and South C. Here, the government, through constant police harassment, mass denationalisation and intimidation, is implementing a systematic forceful displacement of large numbers of populations.

In the past 30 days, both neighbourhoods have lost substantial numbers of their residents who have relocated to the northern parts of the country.
Just like the mass human displacements in Eldoret and its environs during the post-election violence, Eastleigh, South C and other areas face forceful human displacement.

At least this administration has got resident experts on how to trigger mass human displacement!

Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly

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