HUNDREDS of demonstrators yesterday took to the streets of Dhobley in support of Kenyan troops pursuing al Shabaab. They criticised Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed for his remarks that Kenyan troops were not welcome in Somalia. And in Mombasa Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang said that screening of Somalis would be stepped up before they received identity documents.
Ahmed said on Monday that the Somali government was not happy because the Kenyan incursion had gone beyond the initial agreement for logistical support for Somali soldiers. Kenya sent thousands of troops and heavy weapons into Somalia 10 days ago to push al Shabaab rebels away from the border, following a series of kidnappings. Kenyan soldiers have advanced on several fronts with Somali troops and allied militias but there has yet to be a serious battle with al Shabaab. The first major confrontation is expected to be in the strategic transit town of Afmadow.
In Dhobley near the border with Kenya, hundreds of demonstrators waved Kenyan and Somali flags and burned pictures of the president. “We want Kenya and Somalia to fight al Shabaab in every corner. We do not have any other hope for life,” an elder Gedi Farah told Reuters by phone. “Kenya, do not believe the words of our weak, mad president. Please fight Al Shabaab and go deep into Somalia. We want to return to our homes,” he said.
Somali military officials and a spokesman for the pro-government Ras Kamboni militia urged the demonstrators to calm down. “The Somali government does not support Al Shabaab. It is only the president and that will be solved,” Colonel Yasin Warfa, a government military official, told the demonstrators.
Since becoming president in 2009, Ahmed has failed to stamp any authority on a country that has lacked effective central government control for two decades. Since launching an insurgency in 2007, al Shabaab has seized large chunks of southern and central Somalia and is still battling government troops and African Union soldiers from Uganda and Burundi in parts of the capital Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab has threatened to take the “war of flames” to Kenya too. Two grenade attacks in the capital Nairobi on Monday killed one person and wounded nearly 30, although Kenyan police chiefs have not yet drawn a direct link with the Somali rebels. A moderate Sufi militia in Somalia, Ahlu Sunna, that has supported the government against al Shabaab, also criticised President Ahmed. “Sharif, if you cannot, or do not want to oust al Shabaab, let Kenya do it for the sake of the suffering Somalis,” spokesman Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf told Reuters. “All Somalis support Kenya and no one will join Al Shabaab. People are tired of al Shabaab,” he said.
In Mombasa yesterday Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’ said no Somali will be issued with a Kenyan identity card until it is proven beyond doubt that they are Kenyan, especially in Mombasa, Garissa, Lamu and border areas. “It is important that we do this because of the situation the country is facing right now. Every person of Somali origin will have to be subjected to thorough scrutiny before they are issued with IDs,” said Kajwang’.
He called on Kenyans to cooperate with the police and give information about suspicious people in their neighbourhoods.
“Not that every Somali you see is suspicious now, so do not give alarmist information to police. That will cause panic and it will be punished,” he said.
In Mombasa, a Somali commuter was yesterday morning ejected from a matatu in Mikindani estate and told to take a taxi to the city centre. Kenya yesterday repatriated nine Ugandans arrested in Mombasa by Anti Terrorist Police Unit during a crackdown. Sudi Alemii Ibrahim, Ayub Muzami, Abdul Karim Omar Bakole, Twaha Ismail, Musa Ahmed, Esmail Noah, Taban Swali, Tabuga Swadrik and Ayile Ismail were handed over to Uganda security personnel at 8.40am yesterday after they were escorted to the Malaba border town by two police officers.
A Kenya Immigration official said the nine crossed into Kenya on September 7 on temporary passports, except for one who had a permanent passport. The nine were repatriated after they failed to provide convincing reasons for their stay in Kenya. Meanwhile, two Somali citizens are being held at Malaba police station in Kenya after being arrested while entering the country on a motorbike through an unofficial route. Teso OCPD Elphas Korir said the two had temporary passes and are being interrogated by security officers.
In Nairobi two people seriously injured by a grenade explosion on Race Course Road near OTC bus station on Monday are in critical condition at Kenyatta National Hospital. Patrick Githinji, 19 years, a mechanic at Grogan, and Justus Makau, 37, a shoe shiner on Racecourse Road, were waiting to board the bus home.
Witnesses saw two men try to enter a supermarket near the bus station at around 7.30pm but were stopped by guards at the door who ordered them to leave their luggage outside. “They had a tinted white saloon car which they had parked behind a bus. I saw them run towards the car as people were busy boarding the bus and immediately the bus was driven off, an explosion occurred and I saw many people lying down writhing in pain,” said Zack Otieno. Last night, Police commissioner Mathew Iteere said 15 AK47s, 13 grenades and at least 100 assorted bullets were found at a house in Kayole. One man was arrested.