On April 4, Kenya started house-to-house sweeps in Eastleigh, a largely Somali neighborhood in Nairobi, looking for improperly documented refugees, whom Kenya considers a terrorism threat.
The Kenyan government launched the operation because of concerns about terrorism by al-Shabaab, an Islamic terror group based in Somalia. Kenya contributes troops to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia that’s trying to route Shabaab — and the terrorist group has retaliated, most famously with an attack last September on the upscale Westgate shopping mall, which killed 67 people. Via kenyaimnotaterrorist.tumblr.com
Critics immediately questioned the Kenyan government’s presumption that urban refugees are likely terrorists.
The Kenyan government doesn’t know exactly who the terrorists are. Since 2011, there have been 43 separate terrorist attacks in Kenya, according to the Daily Nation, a local paper. Via kenyaimnotaterrorist.tumblr.com
“Operation Usalama Watch,” as the crackdown is officially known, quickly morphed to sweep up illegal immigrants, also labeled a security threat, and anyone who has an identity card the police consider suspicious.
The operation brings up decades-old tensions between Kenya and its Somali population — including tensions about who is “Kenyan enough.”
Many of those whose homes have been visited by Kenya’s police forces say they have paid bribes in order to avoid being sent to Kasarani Stadium, where the police hold people until their “suspicious” documents are verified.
Critics of “Operation Usalama Watch” say the the operation doesn’t effectively address the roots of Kenya’s illegal immigrant problem.
Many Somalis say the crackdown focuses on — and reinforces — negative stereotypes about Somalis and their neighborhoods.