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War on terror in Somalia: Is KDF disciplined?

By Kethi D Kilonzo | October 6th 2013

By Kethi D Kilonzo

[email protected]

Is KDF committing atrocities in Somalia? There are many unanswered questions about the Westgate attack. Any answer to these questions will point to a chain of failures of Kenya’s authorities; a chain that continues to grow in the aftermath of the attack. When and how did any of the terrorists access our borders and for how long did they enjoy the protection of the law? When did NIS become aware of and document the threat of this particular attack? Was the documentation specific, accurate and reliable? If the threat was documented, was it properly and effectively brought to the attention of the persons responsible to take preventive action?

If the NIS was aware of the presence of terrorists, the cars they were going to use, the destination of the attack, the time of the attack and so on, why wasn’t preventive action taken? What is the reason for failure to take action on the report? Who failed to take action on the report? What corrective action has been taken for these specific failures?

We can only hope, nay pray, that the commission of inquiry to be set will unearth these answers; and, that there will be sufficient political will for the necessary action to be taken to bring to book those responsible. There is however deafening silence about one issue; a question that no one dares to ask, an issue that our government has made no admission or denial. Is KDF committing atrocities in Somalia?

During the attack the al-Shabaab militants demanded the withdrawal of KDF from Somalia. The demand has been rejected by our President. They also claimed that KDF was harming, maiming and killing innocent populations, and illegally taking over trade in Somalia. No answer has been given to these allegations.

This is not the first time that such allegations are being leveled against our disciplined forces in Somalia. In June, Somali-Americans staged a protest in front of the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC alleging persecution and illegal economic activities by our disciplined forces in Somalia.

Kenya is not at war with Somalia. The deployment of Kenya’s disciplined forces was targeted towards fighting and eliminating the al-Shabaab. The war on terror in Somalia cannot be an excuse for harming, maiming and killing of innocent women and children. Using the war on terror in Somalia as a platform for earning an extra dime here or there by members of our disciplined forces, like the alleged looting at the Westgate Mall, is morally reprehensible. Such conduct should be condemned, punished and prohibited by those in charge.

During Operation Okoa Maisha in Mt Elgon District, in the process of eliminating the SLDF, Kenya’s disciplined forces turned against the civilian population by using outrageous interrogation techniques, including torture. To date no action has been taken by the Government to acknowledge or compensate the victims of those atrocities.

It would be unfortunate if our disciplined forces are again displaying similar disregard for international law on foreign soil during a mission whose objective is to offer relief to the government of Somalia and its population. Now that there are allegations that our disciplined forces have turned against innocent people in a foreign land, like the terrorists did in Westgate, the government has a responsibility to answer these allegations. Mere denial, contradictory statements, and empty rhetoric, like we have seen in the last few days, are not good enough. Silence is unacceptable.

Kenya is not at war with Somalia.  Our government must protect the lives and businesses of the population in Somalia from rampage by our disciplined forces. I express my deep sympathy to all the families that lost loved ones, the injured, and those who have lost businesses, income, property and employment as a result of the Westgate terrorist attack.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya

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