On Friday July 22, just as residents of Elele village in Mandera County ended their weekly prayers, a contingent of security forces rounded them up outside the mosque and demanded that they produce guns. After residents denied they had guns, the men beat up some of them and proceeded to search the houses, breaking in doors in the process. Later, they left, leaving behind bewildered residents. The men wore plainclothes, and covered their faces in turbans and drove in unmarked Toyota Land Cruisers.
Nearly two weeks earlier, they similarly raided Harwale village in Mandera early morning, beat up the residents and disappeared with six men. Efforts by the provincial administration officials in the area to talk them out of the brutal punishment meted on the residents were fruitless. The men were held incommunicado at unknown location, and released a couple of days ago after intervention by local leaders. This ‘hooded’ security men are reportedly from the military intelligence, and take their instructions directly from Nairobi.
Early this week, Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Deaths and Disappearances: Abuses in Counterterrorism Operations in Nairobi and in Northeastern Kenya,” which documented 34 instances in which ‘multi-agency security operations in which the military was actively involved in raiding homes and compounds to arrest people who were allegedly suspected of links with the armed Islamist group, Al-Shabaab.’ In addition to the enforced disappearances of the 34 residents of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa, the report reveals ‘at least 11 cases in the past two years in which dead bodies of people previously arrested by state agents have been found, in some instances far from the location of their arrest’.
In September 2015, the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights published a report titled ‘The Error of Fighting Terror with Terror’ in which they revealed that our security agencies have “continued to conduct abusive operations against individuals and groups suspected to be associated with terror attacks”. Their report states that it “documented over one hundred and twenty (120) cases of egregious human rights violations that include twenty-five (25) extra-judicial killings and eighty-one (81) enforced disappearances. These violations are widespread, systematic and well-coordinated and include but are not limited to arbitrary arrests, extortion, illegal detention, torture, killings and disappearances. KNCHR has heard multiple narratives of suspects being rounded up and detained for periods ranging from a few hours to many days in extremely overcrowded and inhumane and degrading conditions. Many have been tortured while in detention, sustaining serious physical injuries and psychological harm as a result. The torture methods include beatings, waterboarding, electric shocks, genital mutilation, exposure to extreme cold or heat, hanging on trees, mock executions, and exposure to stinging by ants in the wild, denial of sleep and food.” As expected, the State has rubbished both reports. This State-sanctioned collective punishment of the residents has created fear and despondence, and mistrust of the government agencies.
The actions of these officers have no place in a nation that prides itself of commitment to the rule of law. The President should disband this military intelligence unit, and form a commission of inquiry to investigate these disappearances and bring this matter to a closure.