In early April the government began a nation wide crackdown dubbed ‘Operation Usalama Watch’. The intention of the operation, arrest and prosecute people suspected of engaging in terrorist activities and eliminate terrorism. However almost two months in one wonders if the operation is achieving this.
Since the start of the operation we have seen the arbitrary arrest, detention and deportation of thousands of people, mostly of Somali descent. According newspaper reports, since the 2nd of April the numbers of people arrested and detained could be upwards of 4,000 a number confirmed by the CS for Interior. These numbers could be higher considering in its first day the operation saw the arrest and detention of 600+ Eastleigh residents, and the operation has since been extended to include South C, Lang’ata, Kawangware and Kasarani. Currently several hundreds of people are being detained at Kasarani Stadium.
According to the Administration Police spokesperson, “the process is all in order, there is nothing wrong happening here. We just needed space and we have used this one…and we would like to ask human rights organisations to stay away until we complete the process.” Human rights reports on the crackdown paint a different picture, (see reports here and here).
If there is nothing wrong with the process and everything is order as stated by the Police spokesperson then there would be no need to ask human rights organisations to stay away.
While it is recognised that the balance between human rights and national security is a challenge world over and that Kenya is no exception. The response to this complex issue requires an equally sophisticated response.
In the way it is being carried out, Operation Usalama Watch seems to have little effect on terrorism, radicalisation of the youth, and religious extremism.
What is clear however is that government should have by now developed a more coherent approach to national security and terrorism as whole and to Operation Usalama Watch in particular i.e. more targeted intelligence, sealing of corruption loopholes, registration of genuine refugees, development of humane conditions and registration for asylum seekers? As opposed to the current approach, which seems both haphazard and desperate, and will undoubtedly adversely, affect innocent persons.
How has the ongoing security operation affected your life?