The Kenyan Somalis occupy the single largest land of 127,358.5sqkm compared to the other 42 ethnic communities in Kenya, yet they are considered foreigners and unnecessary appendage in the integration into nationhood of Kenya largely because of their ethnicity as Somalis and religious affiliation as Muslims.
Kenya as a nation was born out of historical incident of colonization which shaped the African continent into the current demarcation of national maps of territorial boundaries during the scramble for Africa by the European colonists.
The Europeans had two broader missions in coming to Africa to bring Christianity and to reap the virgin resources of Africa. In the Horn of Africa particularly in north eastern Kenya they found Islam already in place and little resources. Hence the policy of marginalization was born in earnest through under development, divide and rule, regional isolation from the rest of Kenya and culling of the both human and animal population through uncontrolled epidemic of both natural and manmade causes.
In the case of livestock there were allegations of deliberate introduction of epidemic causing livestock diseases by the colonial government for culling of the livestock population which is the primary cause of the current manifestation of extreme poverty in this region.
In post-independence, the policy of marginalization become more pronounced and the shifta war provided the necessary excuse and ammunition to perpetuate this official but unwritten policy. The shifta war which begin in1963 was deeply rooted to the long standing grievances from British colonial Isolation and underdevelopment, the entire population were criminalized.
“To the people who live in Northeastern region, I have this to say, we know many of you are herds men during the day and shifta at night. Others conceal and refuse to give information about their movement” – Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta said while addressing the Kenyan house of parliament. – (Maj John Ringquist, Bandit or Patriot: The Kenyan Shifta war 1963-68).
In the name of fighting the shifta war, horrendous crime and gross human rights abuses ensued, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed, many women and children raped, maimed, others displaced and their livestock destroyed. Unfortunately most of these gross violation of human rights were never documented by the government or the international human right agencies, the world watched indifferently the suffering and humiliation of these people simply because of their Islamic faith, like the world is watching indifferently the suffering of the Syrian refugees of today.
The subsequent regimes of Moi and Mwai used Banditry and insecurity as an excuse to commit heinous crimes of human rights abuse against the Somali communities of North eastern region including the infamous Wagalla massacre where thousands of innocent people of the Degodia clan were killed by the Kenyan security forces in Wajir County and hundreds of thousands of livestock decimated due to thirst and hunger which further impoverished the already poor citizenry. This is a living testimony of these gross human right abuses.
The jubilee government is using terrorism as the aggressive and invasive new modern machine to perpetrate human rights abuse in this region according to report by the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR) entitled “The Error Of Fighting Terror With Terror” which accused security forces in northern region of committing extrajudicial killings of many people suspected to be linked to terrorism.
Additionally many people particularly the youth disappeared without trace, the reports reads in part “The frequency, audacity and magnitude of the terror attacks has exposed Kenya’s vulnerability and the impact has been grave. Kenyans are desperate for security and key pillars of the economy such as tourism have almost grounded. Education and health provision in some areas in Northern Kenya has been gravely affected due to flight of teachers and health workers leading to closure of schools and health facilities. Faced with this daunting challenge the government of Kenya has adopted high-handed and extralegal security measures in containing the threats posed by terrorism which have resulted in multiple human rights violations of citizens and terror suspects”.
This report documents over one hundred and twenty (120) cases of egregious human rights violations that include twenty five (25) extrajudicial killings and eighty one (81) enforced disappearances.
These human right violation and marginalization of the Somali people in North eastern region by all successive government regimes resulted in massive and generalized poverty and underdevelopment manifesting itself in poor health indicators including high maternal and child mortality and morbidity caused by preventable and treatable diseases. Access to skilled delivery which is a primary indicator in health service delivery in Wajir County is 21.7% while in Kiambu County it is 92.6% (KDHS2014).
The region is one of the hungriest in Kenya with 66% hunger rates according to a report by food insecurity assessment in Kenya in 2015 with resultant generalized malnutrition among children, pregnant and lactating mothers with stunting of 70% of the children and aneamia of 90% among the pregnant and lactating mothers.
In the midst of all these hunger, illiteracy and diseases in this region, on Wednesday November 4, 2015 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) published embarrassing details of how the ministry of devolution spent money on the purchase of sex toys, the details contained in a report submitted to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament by the Principal secretary.
The runaway corruption in Kenya has attracted global attention after the respected New York Times published a hard-hitting report under the headline “An anti-corruption plea in Kenya: Please just steal a little” by Jeffrey Gettleman indicating blatant looting from the public coffers by senior government officials, the ensuing public outcry and the inaction of the state anti-corruption agencies.
Why are successive governments pursuing these policies of gross human right abuses and underdevelopment? Are these polices used as culling strategy to control population growth? The answer lies in population growth. The population results of the census in 2009 for North eastern region was disputed and cancelled by the government through a gazette notice by the then Minister of Planning Hon. Wycliff Oparanga. Thereafter, some leaders from the region went to court and they were granted relieve by the high court to stop the cancellation.
The government appealed against the court decision. Interestingly national census is government planned and implemented activities. Why is the government fighting its own report? In Kenya today, resource distribution is largely based on population and poverty as major indicators among others for consideration. It is because of these factors that North Eastern Province (NEP) got additional constituencies and wards in the last review of constituency borders, this translated into more funding for constituency development fund (CDF) and effective representation in the national and county assemblies and more employment opportunity slots from the government employing agencies like Kenya Defence Forces ( KDF), police service etc.
Additionally the funding allocation for county governments of the northeast region of Wajir, Garissa and Mandera increased tremendously because of the consideration of these factors of population and poverty as the baseline indicators. Despite all these systemic and government supported marginalization, the resilience of the Somali communities in Kenya has strengthened. They have become economic power house driving the economy of the country – only second to the Asian community of Indian ancestry doing business in every corner of the 47 counties of Kenya and they have integrated well with their Kenyan host communities to the extent of being elected to parliament to represent their host tribes like Hon. Junet Mohamed of Suna East Constituency.
The new constitutional dispensation of devolution provided excellent opportunities for socioeconomic growth and a new aura which expanded political space and accountability.
The greatest fear of the government of the day lies in this increased population of the Somali community and to larger extent Muslims in Kenya.
Kenya’s politic being a tribe based democracy, more people means more representation and political inclusion. The Somali tribe has one of the highest fertility rate and in the coming few years, they will be third largest tribe in Kenya and with political merger of the Muslim dominated Coast, no serious political party can ignore this reality.
The fear of the ruling elite is unfounded and is anchored on selfish personal interest to perpetuate their rule using ethnic animosity. The solution lies in the integration of all Kenyan tribes into one indivisible strong people of one Nation, where rule of law prevails and people are free from corruption and other social evils with equal opportunities for all.
The saddest part of this story is the impunity; the perpetrators of these heinous crimes over the years have never been punished and may never be punished. The people of Kenya must fight impunity overzealously to stop human right violations anywhere in the country, for the citizens to graciously enjoy the new pragmatic constitutional dispensation.
By Prof. M. Y. Elmi
The writer is a Professor of epidemiology and Director of Hargeisa Campus, Mount Kenya University