Kenya, Muslim leaders lock horns on security operation

NAIROBI – Kenyan Internal Security Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku and Muslim community leader locked horns Thursday over an ongoing security operation that has seen thousands of Muslims being detained in a span of few days.

"I don't see anything coming out of the meeting we just had," Al Amin Kimathi, a human rights activist, told Anadolu Agency minutes after the meeting.

A delegation of Muslim leaders, led by Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Chairman Prof. Abdulghafur El Busaidy, met with Lenku earlier this evening.

They condemned an ongoing massive security operation launched by the government last week in the capital Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa.

The operation has seen thousands of people detained for screening, mostly believed to be Muslims from Eastleigh, a heavily populated Somali district of Nairobi, home to nearly 50,000 Somali urban refugees.

Muslim leaders told Lenku that they had documented cases of abuse and use of excessive force by the police in Eastleigh since the operation started.

They also raised concerns about extortion by the police and allegations of sexual harassment against detained women.

The delegation criticized the government for sidelining Muslim clerics and elders in the operation and demanded to be consulted first before any similar operation is undertaken.

The East African nation has in the last week been fed with images of police officers raiding homes in Eastleigh.  

-Skeptical-

The Muslim leaders asked the government to suspend the security operation on grounds that human rights were being violated.

But the government insisted the operation will continue, but promised to look into rights allegations and take strict measures against officers found guilty.

Kimathi sounded pessimistic about the government's intention to ensure human rights are respected during the security crackdown.

"We know this government well enough not to be fooled around with empty promises," said Kimathi minutes after the meeting

"Look at the living condition they have forced hundreds to live in in the Kasarani Stadium," he fumed.

Thousands of people are detained and confined in Kasarani Stadium for screening and interrogation.

"That concentration camp needs to be closed right now," said Kimathi, a leading rights activist.

The meeting had been postponed several times in the past amidst rising hue and cry by Muslim leaders and activists over the way the security operation was being conducted.

Secretary Lenku could not be immediately reached to comment on today's closed-door meeting. He was said to be in yet another security meeting.

Deputy Interior Cabinet Secretary Mwendwa Njoka told AA Wednesday that his government had deported 82 illegal Somali immigrants back to their country.

He said that 447 people would be referred to court, while 69 had already been referred.

Kenya currently shelters close to 800,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Northeastern Kenya's Dadaab camp is believed to be the world's largest refugee center, hosting a total of some 500,000 refugees, mostly Somalis.

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