Monthly Archives: April 2014

ADVOCATE GROUPS ‘CONCERNED’ OVER MASS KENYA ARRESTS

Human Rights organisations have expressed concern over the mass arrest of Oromos and other nationals in Kenya as part of a security force operation.

According to different sources, about 6,000 people have been arrested over the past week in the capital, Nairobi, sources said. Kenya has vowed to flush out sympathisers of the Somalia-based militant Islamist group, al-Shabab as the group has carried out a spate of attacks in Kenya.

Kenyan police have been carrying out raids in Nairobi’s mainly in Eastleigh since three grenade blasts killed at least six people in the area last Monday.

‘Safeguarding rights’

Police allege that Eastleigh has become a safe haven for al-Shabab, an allegation many residents deny.

Those arrested in the raids include women and children, reports the BBC’s Tomi Oladipo from Nairobi.

They are being held at Kasarani sports stadium and at various police stations in the city.

Police are screening them to check their legal status, our correspondent says.

Advocacy for Oromia, Australian Oromo Community Association in Victoria and Human Rights League of Horn of Africa and other international human rights agencies said it had sought access to refugees and asylum-seekers who had been arrested in the raids.

It understood Kenya’s security concerns, but it wanted to appeal to law-enforcement agencies to “safeguard the rights of all those arrested and to treat them in a humane and non-discriminatory manner”, Advocacy for Oromia said.

Last week, Somalia’s ambassador to Nairobi, Ali Americo, told the BBC Somali Service that he had discussed the arrests with Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku at a meeting on Monday.

Mr Americo said he had been informed that most of the 6,000 people arrested were Somalis and Oromos.

However, Ugandans, South Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans were also among those being held, sources said.

Police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi told the BBC he did not know how many people had been arrested. However, the number was increasing as the security operation went on, he said.

Last week, Kenya’s government ordered all Somali refugees living in towns to move into designated camps in a bid to end the attacks.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the operation would continue to protect Kenya from further attacks by al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda.

“We are not fighting any religion or community. Our fight is against criminals who kill innocent children, women and men going about their everyday activities, including praying,” he said on Saturday.

On 24 March six people died in an attack on a church near the port of Mombasa.

In September, at least 67 people were killed after al-Shabab militants took control of the Westgate shopping mall in the capital Nairobi for four days.

OROMO REFUGEES CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE OF KENYA’S STOP-AND-FRISK

kenyaoromo(OPride) — Since Kenya began its security operations on March 31, nearly 6,000 foreigners and some Kenyan citizens of Somali origin have been arrested.

So far, close to 200 people, mostly undocumented Somali immigrants, have been deported, according to local media reports. Thousands of detainees are being held in a temporary makeshift “prison” at Kasarani Stadium, the site of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration last year. Kenya is upping its counterterrorism measures in response to an upsurge in grenade attacks — the worst of which hit the Westgate Mall in Nairobi’s suburb last September.

The indiscriminate swoop has drawn the ire of human rights organizations. In addition to poor prison conditions, the Kenyan police is accused of not arraigning those detained within 24-hours stipulated by that country’s law. But these stories have already been reported in the mainstream media. With all attention focused on the prejudiced profiling of ethnic Somalis, Oromo refugees from neighboring Ethiopia say they are caught in the crossfire and that their plight have been overshadowed.

More than 400 Oromos and other Ethiopian immigrants have been arrested in these crackdowns,” Canada-based Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), said in a statement this week. HRLHA listed the full names of 49 Oromos it said were caught in the security dragnet. Over the last two decades, as the Ethiopian regime intensified crackdown on Oromo dissent, millions of Oromos have crossed into Kenya seeking asylum. Last July, the United Nations Refugee agency estimated there were more than 600,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Kenya out of which some 56,000 lived in Nairobi alone. Some 10,568 of those registered with UNHCR were from Ethiopia, the second largestsegment after Somalis.

 Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, where the crackdown is still ongoing, is home to Somali and Oromo refugees. Speaking to the Voice of America’s Jalane Gemeda on Wednesday, two Oromo migrants currently being held at Kasarani said they are legal refugees carrying UNHCR identifications.

Those on the outside say they can’t leave their homes due to fear of arrest. “We closed our doors and turned off the lights, but they are still banging on it,” Abdul J told OPride last night in an email from Nairobi, where the Kenyan police is still going door-to-door “literally arresting anyone who looks different.”

Others are desperately searching for and trying to free their loved ones arrested during the Stop-and-Frisk style sweep. “My pregnant wife, 17-month-old child and sister are in there,” Mahdi Ibrahim, 39, a refugee from Ethiopia told the New York Times. “This is the second time they come and arrest my family. Our refugee papers are valid.”

The refugees are calling on the international community to intervene on their behalf. They are also asking the Oromo diaspora to help amplify their “cries.” Kenya occasionally repatriates asylum seekers from Ethiopia. Several Oromo activists who have been refouled back to Ethiopia have disappeared and at least one person has died in Ethiopian prison over the last few years. Most Oromo refugees fear for their safety upon return to Ethiopia.

A few of those still in Nairobi have setup a Facebook page, “Justice for Oromo Refugees in Nairobi,” to create awareness about their plight. Anthropologist Mohammed Isa, one of the group’s coordinators,have written about their ordeals in greater details on CNN’s iReport page.

The Fate of OROMO REFUGEE: Persecuted at Home, Harassed and Abused Abroad

By Mohammed Isa

The indiscriminate round-up and detention against all immigrants who have been in the country began on Friday April 2, 2014; and has mainly targeted the immigrants living in Eastleigh District of Nairobi, a neighborhood largely dominated by Somalis and Oromo immigrants. Oromo refugees once fled to Kenya for safety claim facing detention and threats since government ordered them to move to camps. The Kenyan police and security agents have arbitrary arrested and detained around 6000 refugees who are originally from neighboring Horn of African countries; and have continued hunting for more. 

During the last two decades millions of oromos fled their country and living as a refugee in different parts of the world to escape the brutal mental and physical torture of the current TPLF led regime of Ethiopia. To be honest, since the time is immemorial Kenyan and Oromo co- habited and relatively had have harmonious and brotherly relationship. As part of the war against Oromo at home and living as refugee abroad, the regime introduced divisive and wrong political policy and agenda in the region, which in turn harmed the relation between oromo and its neighbors. In addition, during the last two decades, staged dozens of cross-border raids into the neighboring countries of Kenya and Somalia and hunted down, kidnapped or killed thousands of Oromos including many Kenyan citizens. 

In the space of little more than a week, more than 400 Oromos and other Ethiopian immigrants have been arrested in these crackdown(HRLHA April 14, 2014). The crackdowns against immigrants by Kenyan Police and security began is said to been in response to the three bomb blasts in Eastleigh/ Nairobi and Mombasa in late March 2014, which killed about 12 people and injured 8 others. According to HRLHA’s informant, more than two thousand asylum seekers and refugees have been detained in the Kasarani Football Stadium in the Capital, a location described as a temporary police station, while some are being held at the Pangani police station. 

According to UNHCR’s statistics and figures, there are 56,000 asylum seekers and refugees registered with the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Nairobi and other urban centers in Kenya (UNHCR, 2013). These include 33,844 Somalis, 10,568 Ethiopians, and nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and South Sudan. Most of Oromo and other urban refugees who came from neighboring countries live in Eastleigh district of Nairobi. Just east of Nairobi’s centre, Eastleigh is one of the city’s most vibrant business districts and home to many Somali and oromo refugees. 

Speaking to VOA Afaan oromo, Roba, who fled Ethiopia’s Oromia region for Kenya in 2005 and now has been detained at kasarani detention center for 10 days, echoed these calls. “Most of detained refugees have a legal mandate and allein ID and The UNHCR allowed us to be here,” he says, arguing that the international community and agency should now speak out forcefully against Kenya’s illegal detention. Asked if he could go back to Ethiopia, after silence of a minute, taking a short breaths of surprise, He said “he had been killed” if he returned to his country.

The terrorist threat is unquestionable. Kenya must have to put a clear fine- line between combating terrorism and dealing with illegal immigrant issues. To be true, given Kenya’s being the target of planned and multi-pronged attack, the recent crackdown and operation on illegal immigrant and innocent refugees could not be called more than blanket actions that look like collective punishment of a refugees and asylum seekers.Last year Kenya’s government concerted decisions to return all refugees to overcrowded refugee camps halted at the eleventh hour by a legal ruling. Besides handling the operation in such poorly manner, the chance to be threatened and suffering of refugees is very wide. Many Kenyans and Somalis with valid documents have been stopped in the street or visited by police in their homes, often in the middle of the night: 5,000 shillings ($60) was the going rate for a bribe to avoid being carted off into detention.(Cedric Barnes, 2014)