Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THE SECURITY OPERATION IS NOBLE BUT KENYA MUST RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS

The reverberations triggered by the brutal murder of the fiery Muslim cleric, Abubakar Shariff, popularly known as Makaburi, are still echoing across the country and beyond, as the Government and the rest of Kenyans continue to ponder on the best ways of dealing with the senseless terrorist killings that have rocked the country in recent weeks.

For the first time since the Westgate Mall bombing last September, Kenyans are seeing a more aggressive Government response to the terror menace. The ongoing massive screening exercise to flush out unregistered aliens and suspected terrorists in Eastleigh, Nairobi, underscores the Jubilee Government's determination to deal more harshly with those bent on destabilising the country.

The exercise may not, in itself, be enough to end terror within our borders, but it goes a long way to show a genuine desire on the government's part to guarantee safety of its citizens.

From what I see in the media, the majority of Kenyans fully supports this exercise even though human rights groups have raised serious integrity issues against members of the Kenya security forces. The groups are accusing police personnel of not only extorting money from hapless Eastleigh inhabitants but of raping and sodomising some of them. If these allegations are true, urgent measures must be taken against the perpetrators regardless of their status in the Force.

Kenya is a signatory to all global human rights conventions and has a comprehensive Bill of Rights entrenched in its own constitution. Thus, it must exercise restraint even as it tries to rid itself of undesirable elements. The operation is good but it must be carried out with dignity.

In the meanwhile, the piece I wrote last week on the role of Muslim leaders on matters of terrorism drew an incredibly high number of hits and responses. Some, mainly Muslims, felt offended that I had questioned the integrity of their leaders. I want to make it clear that the article was not meant to insult anyone, not least the Islamic religion of which I have great respect; or, to belittle the leadership of the community.

It was only meant to underscore a trend that is so common in Kenya where people become overly sensitive whenever certain matters dearest to them are debated while least bothered about everything else. We see this in politics all the time. People tend to go back to their tribes and communities whenever their interests are threatened without minding the bigger picture. This may be the reason why Aden Duale, the Jubilee Majority Leader in Parliament, is in trouble from some of his colleagues for the comments he made on terrorism.

President Uhuru has made it clear that the Government intends to rid the country of terror elements regardless of their religious, tribal or racial affiliations. And this is how we should look at the ongoing war against terrorism and terror elements; not from a religious prism but from a national perspective. We will be making a big mistake if we were to mix religion, any religion, with terrorism. I say this because I am yet to see a mainstream faith that professes terror and killing of innocent people.

If we are to live harmoniously in Kenya, Christians must be prepared to defend Muslims in times of need just as Muslims must be prepared to do the same when Christians are under threat. To go any other way is to court religious disharmony.

And that is my say.