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Coast Violence should not be assumed under the tag of Al-Shabaab/MRC

30th August, 2012 /..International Center for Policy and Conflict is perturbed by the surge of violence and lawlessness in Kenya in recent times. This violence, emerging few months to elections and shattering lives of Kenyans, has to be addressed systematically and without further political delays. 

The sheer levels of violence and its dimensions that erupted at the Coast on Monday and Tuesday following the brutal murder of Sheik Aboud Rogo cannot just be explained away. Its root causes have to be addressed adequately and not through patchwork solutions.

 That this murder occurred in broad daylight along a busy street in a town that is the economic lifeline of the country only highlights further, the low levels of insecurity the country has descended to.

In equal measure, the ‘retaliatory’ killings of police officers tasked to restore law and order is unacceptable and must be stopped. No amount of frustration justifies attacking law enforcement officers unless Kenyans want the country to descend into anarchy. Those responsible for this must be firmly prosecuted.

We are however not entirely convinced by the explanation given linking the Sheikh to Al Shabaab and other extremist movements. Sheikh Rogo’s murder is just one of the recent incidents of killings and forced disappearances that border on extra-judicial treatment of suspects in Kenya. As a country founded on the rule of law, this trend ought to change. Any threat to the rule of law for any calibre of suspect is indeed a threat to the entire country and its population.

The threats posed by Al-Shaabab to the country are indeed great and must not be condoned at all costs, but within the confines of the law.  However, this should not be a blank cheque for justifying violence.

While the youth and every Kenyan are justified in demanding the truth behind the brutal killings of Sheikh Rogo, we are calling upon them to exercise their picketing within the legitimate parameters of the law including lawful peaceful demonstrations. The Authorities must also introspect on why so many Kenyan productive youths would go to such a savage extent to express their grievances.

This is not an isolated incident. It is an indictment on the system that has for a long time ignored germane issues of discrimination and arbitrary harassment by the Authorities especially in Mombasa, Central and Nairobi of young people without offering solid and substantive solutions.  None of these incidents have been judiciously investigated and prosecuted to any logical conclusion.

The unacceptable violence in Mombasa partly shows the lack of faith and trust in government institutions. Expeditious security sector reforms are therefore not an option for postponement any more. They can no longer be held politically hostage to the extent of violating the Constitution.  

Finally, the government must take sufficient measures to guarantee fundamental freedoms and only respond with proportionate force. We commend police for showing a certain degree of restrain in its response to the current situation.

It is not convincing to keep on linking any sign of domestic dissent to Al Shabaab or Mombasa Republic Republic (MRC).  We find these to be part of an escapist tag that avoids dealing with the real ills bedevilling the society. It is important to remember that MRC is not an illegal movement following the recent High Court finding.  Also, neither must the country allow the dissent in Mombasa or any part of the country to precipitate into religious or sectarian tensions and violence which have never defined the country’s relations.

Signed by,

Ndung’u Wainaina

ED - ICPC

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