Kenyan Muslims live in Fear
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN-Muslims in Kenya are living in fear of being arrested and falsely charged with terror, a Kenyan political analyst has said.
“Many innocent Muslims have been arrested in Kenya in the past months on false charges of terrorism,” Abdallah Kassim told Africa Witness by telephone from Nairobi. He said in this century, it was expected that police and intelligence services would gather enough evidence before pouncing to arrest suspects.
“Muslims in Kenya are living in great fear because many of their colleagues, family and friends have been arrested on false charges. What the world needs to know is that Kenyan Muslims do not support terror. So the security agencies should stop arresting people merely on suspicion,” said the analyst.
He said most of the Muslims who have been arrested in Kenya were kept in police custody without being taken to a court. “There are many Muslims who have been arrested and kept in police cells or in prison without trial. This is illegal. Why is the Kenyan government not charging these people in courts of law?” he asked.
According to Kassim, the Kenyan police also has a habit of “making Muslims disappear” across borders, in what is commonly known as “rendition”. He said in July last year a number of Kenyan Muslims were sent to Uganda for suspected involvement in the Kampala bomb blasts, which killed over 70 soccer fans who were watching the World Cup finals.
The analyst said when Human Rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi learnt of the renditions, he hired a lawyer and they flew to Uganda to represent the suspects. But shockingly the 50 year old Kimathi and his lawyer, Mbugua Murethi, were also arrested by the Ugandan anti terrorism police for allegedly having links with terrorists. Advocate Mbugua was released after spending days in Ugandan police cells, but his client has since been held in solitary confinement in Uganda’s Luzira prisons, along with the Kenyans he was trying to help.
Kimathi was the executive coordinator of the Kenyan Muslim Human Rights Forum (MHRF) and had been instrumental in fighting for the rights of detained Muslims. He has also been an outspoken critic of government abuses in the War on terror in East Africa. In 2007 the MHRF exposed a huge renditions scandal, dubbed “Africa’s Guantamo” – in which Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and the United States, were secretly moving prisons to different African countries.
Kimathi was arrested in Uganda on September 15. According to Cara Gutteridge an investigator working for the UK human rights group Reprieve, he was highly regarded as a tireless human rights activist in Africa. “In his work, Al-Amin has been a much needed beacon to some of the most marginalized and abused people in Africa. His arrest and treatment is a disgraceful indication of the depth to which the Ugandan government will stoop to in order to prevent light being shone on their own illegal practices,” she said.