more about http://crfg.org/wp-includes/class-wp-metadata-lazyloader.php geneva;”>Nairobi, Kenya- Ahmed Omar sits inside his big shop looking unhappy and worried about the future.
“They (Kenyan police) keep harassing and intimidating me because of my race,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed is a 33-year old Kenyan-born businessman of Somali ethnicity. Though he is a Kenyan citizen by birth and has the legal identity documents, he says he doesn’t feel equal to other Kenyan citizens because of his race.
“The security forces keep profiling Somalis, all Somalis regardless of their citizenship country, even if you were born in Kenya but your race is Somali, they won’t spare you”.
“Isn’t that like we are in 1994 South Africa apartheid era?” Ahmed told me.
A state-sanctioned crackdown was launched in April after terrorist attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa. The crackdown directed against foreign nationals and terrorist sympathizers saw thousands of mainly ethnic Somalis rounded up and detained in concentration camps.
Hundreds others were deported back to war-torn Somalia and some were moved to the Dadaab refugee camp.
Human right organisations criticised the crackdown known as operation usalama (peace) watch for its harshness and legality. Victims of the security crackdown spoke of allegations of rape, torture and robbery by the Kenyan security forces.
The Kenyan government denied all the allegations saying the operation was only meant to secure the country and not to harm anyone in anyway.
“We don’t want people of Somali race at all, they should go back to Somalia, that’s where they belong to,” Ahmed recalls a group of Kenyan men shouting in front of his shop.
“They think every Somali in this country is responsible of what is happening in Kenya,” Ahmed said.
“I am feeling like stateless.” Hamdi Ali, a 38-year old mother of six first thought Operation usalama watch wouldn’t affect her.
“At the start of the swoop, I was expecting not to be not affected that much by it but that wasn’t the case,” she says.
Hamdi whose house in the suburb of Eastleigh was stormed into one night by the police at around 12 am spoke of clear violations of her rights as a citizen by the Kenyan police.
“The first time they entered the house, they (security forces) started beating and robbing us,” said Hamdi.
“They hit my husband several times and they tried to touch me but I screamed and they retreated a bit”.
Hamdi and her husband who both were born in Kenya were told to bring their identity cards (IDs) by the security forces so they would check and see if they are in the country legally. After their IDs were checked, the police still demanded a bribe of about $95 (equivalent to the sum of 8000 Kenyan shillings) or they will be detained and their IDs taken forever.
“We had to pay the $95 because they would put us into a greater trouble and they do that especially when your race is Somali regardless of whether you are a Kenyan citizen who was born in Kenya,” Hamdi told me.
She said her hopes of being a free Kenyan citizen is now fading away.
“I am feeling like stateless, Kenya has rejected me and I have never seen Somalia. Not yet a Kenyan.”
Somalis who were born in Kenya are now in constant fear they might be stripped of their citizenship by the government. It’s a long ongoing history that the Kenyan government always uses to mistreat citizens of ethnic Somalis.
Since Kenya sent its troops to Somalia in 2011, Kenyan-born ethnic Somalis have been targeted on numerous times by either the security forces or the ordinary citizens. They were ethnically profiled and their rights diminished.
“Though I was born in Kenya, I am not yet a Kenyan because I don’t have my full freedom and rights as a citizen”, says Ahmed.