In the last few weeks, over 64 Kenyans have lost their lives in Mandera as a result of two separate terrorist attacks.
On November 22nd, 2014, a Mandera bound bus that was heading to Nairobi was attacked at the Arabiya center, leaving 28 non-Muslims dead. Subsequently, on December 2nd, 2014, a second attack at a quarry claimed the lives of 36 people. Four of the victims were beheaded. Most of the 64 victims were migrant quarry workers from Kenya’s central region. The killings were carried out systematically targeting non-Muslims. As a result, these incidences have sparked religious tensions in the country.
Despite the Kenyan Regime’s assurance as to the state of security in Kenya, these recent attacks have raised serious questions on the Regimes capability to ensure security in Kenya. A day after the first attack in Mandera, the government claimed to have pursued the perpetrators and killed them all. This was further put to question following a statement released by Al Shabaab, refuting that their militants had been killed, and again on December 2nd following the second attack.
Tensions are specifically high in Kenya’s central region. Kenyan-Somali’s and ethnic Somalis living in Nyeri, or making use of the Nanyuki Isiolo road which runs from Mandera to Nairobi, are not in fear for their lives. Angry Kikuyu youth have vowed to exact revenge on Somali’s for the deaths of their own. County leaders have further provoked called for violence by making statements such as “When Israel attacks Palestine, Palestine retaliates”; a statement made during the burial of two victims of the Mandera attacks in Nyeri.
Police vehicles that were sent to the area to patrol the region have further failed to secure Kenyan Somalis and ethnic Somalis in the area. Buses traveling along the Nanyuki – Isiolo road have been attacked by angry youth, the latest being an attack on a Machi bus that was traveling from Nairobi to Isiolo on December 10th, 2014. 2 people were injured.
Bus drivers interviewed on December 10th informed the InformAction team that even though threats had been reported to the police, the police had decided to treat them as “rumors”, and that police patrol along the road does not cover the entire stretch of the road that is in Central Region, making them vulnerable to attacks from angry mobs.
Religious tensions in Kenya’s central region has merely complicated existing ethnic tensions between the Kikuyu and Kenyan Somalis. Existing business rivalries have become a platform from which xenophobic behavior has grown.
These increased tensions have the potential of dividing the whole of Kenya along religious lines, further frustrating efforts to sustain peace and security in Kenya.
InformAction Intervention: In January, InformAction will launch a new base in Garissa, seeking to address the concerns of Kenyan-Somalis and ethnic Somalis in Kenya. This base will seek to encourage Kenyan-Somalis to participate in the governance of their region, demanding for good governance and accountability from their leaders. By addressing the concerns of a marginalized and isolated region, InformAction hopes to improve economic, political, and social development in the region and inevitably curbing the increasing radicalization of Somali youth who are idle and as such, easily swayed towards sympathizing with the objectives of terrorist groups like Alshabaab.