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Ethnic profiling runs against basic human values

By Mohamed Guleid | Published Sun, April 13th 2014 at 00:00, Updated April 12th 2014 at 19:51 GMT +3

By Mohamed Guleid

The recent spate of insecurity in some parts of the country is clearly an indicator of social economic problems within the country. Whenever there is inequality in society crime tends to rise.  In a situation of anarchy and helplessness due to unemployment and poverty people are also easily manipulated to carry out acts of terrorism.  The national government has the responsibility to ensure that criminals do not cause mayhem and create disorder in our society.

The perpetrators of the of the Likoni church killings, Eastleigh grenade attack that killed six people and those behind killing Sheikh Abubakar “Makaburi” all need to be arrested and brought before a court of law.

However, in the process of enforcing and maintaining law and order, the security forces need to be careful not to infringe on the rights of citizens. The inhumane treatment by police of Kenyan Somalis and some refugees from Somalia is reminiscent of the kind of humiliation the Somali people have been undergoing since Independence under successive regimes in Kenya. Members of the Kenyan Somali community have always been a milking cow for police officers, immigration officers and any government agency that is required to enforce the law. Often when I encounter some members of these agencies I get   bribe demands even when no crime has been committed.

What is going in Eastleigh to the Somalis is similar to the Spanish Inquisition   in fourteenth century. Collective punishments are meted out to communities that are not wanted by the state. The Jews were hated because of their entrepreneurial success and their conspicuous religious code of dressing and religion that contravened the mainly Catholic Spanish people that dominated Spain at that time. Jews were commercially very successful and dominated the middle class. The projection in Kenya is that Somalis are likely to emerge as an  economic and political force in the coming generation. This appears to worry some  in Kenya. Like the Jews, the history of the Somali people has always been one of marginalisation by the State.    

I think most Kenyan Somalis who are old enough remember the massacre of innocent people in Isiolo in the 1960s, the killings in Garrisa in 1980 followed by the Wagalla massacre and atrocities in Mandera recently by the armed forces. It is, therefore, very clear that the human rights of these people are not respected.

The Somali people in Kenya feel as though  the 2010 Constitution has not been promulgated. After the recent incidences of insecurity at the coast and grenade attacks in Eastleigh, Nairobi, the police   embarked on indiscriminate arrest of women,  the elderly and even teenagers. Often the police demand for the national Identity Card and when one is not produced an arrest is made.

Yet this very valuable document is hardly issued currently. More than 50 per cent of the Somali youth, I suspect like many other Kenyans  have no national Identity Cards and this is not out of their choice. The national government has simply failed to issue this cherished document.

The Constitution of Kenya guarantees in the Bill of Rights freedom from harassment by security agencies. Chapter 4 of the Constitution mentions this without ambiguity. Article 27 (4) says the State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.

In addition Kenya is a signatory to a number of international treaties on human rights that include, the universal declaration of human rights, 1948, international covenant on civil and politics rights, 1976, protocol on individuals rights to report human rights violation 1976.  Convention against torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The profiling of the members of the Somali community therefore is gross violation of their constitutional rights.

  Arresting innocent people only to release them later after paying bribes   is not a solution to the problem. Because most of those arrested end up being released after few days only to be re-arrested after a few days again when another incident occurs somewhere in Kenya.