NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – MUSLIM communities in Kenya are caught between the threat of the armed Islamist group, Al-Shabab, and security forces that carry out abusive counterterrorism operations.
These members of the community are living under fear in the wake of forced disappearances blamed on the two sides. The Islamic terror group has carried out deadly attacks while the uniformed forces have targeted Muslims in anti-terror operations.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that while Kenyan government officials often condemn Al-Shabab’s violence, they remain silent about security forces’ role in enforced disappearances.
Otsieno Namwaya, who has conducted research on behalf of the organisation, said families who report their loved ones as missing to police, providing witness accounts of arrest, often received no response or were told the police had no information.
In some cases, government officials had suggested without evidence Al-Shabab might have killed the missing people.
To exacerbate matters, families are told people reported as disappeared might have crossed the Somali border to join Al-Shabab.
This may be true in some cases, but without credible investigations into the disappearances, and considering Kenya’s counterterrorism response, these assertions should comfort no one,” said Namwaya.
The concern by the HRW coincided with the just-concluded International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
Celebrated at the end of August annually, it is created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives.