News / Africa

    Kenyan Civilians Increasingly Targeted in Coastal Violence

    A Kenyan police officer with civilians views a Taheed Bus at the Lamu Police Station in Lamu County, July 19, 2014. A Kenyan police officer with civilians views a Taheed Bus at the Lamu Police Station in Lamu County, July 19, 2014.
    x
    A Kenyan police officer with civilians views a Taheed Bus at the Lamu Police Station in Lamu County, July 19, 2014.
    A Kenyan police officer with civilians views a Taheed Bus at the Lamu Police Station in Lamu County, July 19, 2014.

    Nearly 100 people have died since mid-June in a series of ambushes and raids in northern Kenya's coastal Lamu County.

    Despite the heavy presence of Kenyan security forces, civilians are increasingly targeted in the attacks, forcing many locals to flee or spend their nights in government facilities.

    On June 15, gunmen attacked the coastal town of Mpeketoni, southwest of Lamu, killing at least 60 people in the predominantly ethnic Kikuyu community.

    Less than six weeks later, gunmen attacked civilians and security forces in the surrounding coastal areas, most recently leaving at least two police officers and seven civilians dead in a July 18 attack on a bus in Witu, near the Kenyan holiday island of Lamu.

    On July 20, at least four people were killed and several others injured in a raid by armed gunmen in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, an attack that will further dent Kenya's beleaguered tourist industry and deepen public frustrations about poor security.

    While Somalia's al-Shabab militants have claimed responsibility for many of the assaults, high level government officials, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, have suggested local politicians feuding over land-ownership issues are behind some of the attacks.

    It's a claim that some locals support.

    "Since a man from central [Kenya] was elected to be a member of parliament [representing Lamu] — that was last year — that’s why most of the coast people got annoyed that someone from central can become a member of parliament in Lamu," said Mpeketoni resident Diana, who gave only her first name for fear of retribution. "In Lamu, it's well known that it belongs to the coast people."

    Regardless of who's ultimately responsible, however, Colonel Benjamin Mwema, spokesperson for the Political Parties Collaborative Leaders Forum, an umbrella organization for Kenyan politics, says the ongoing violence is turning Kenya's coastal region into a breeding ground for terrorists.

    Al-Shabab militants, he says, deliberately exploit longstanding social and economic tensions in the region to recruit local youths who help the group carry out attacks.

    “These people know the terrain and the ground very well," he said. "You blend them with al-Shabab from outside the country and make sure you make coordinated and well-planned local attacks, which will then be blamed on either the locals or politics.

    "This helps al-Shabab create a situation which is fluid, whereby the government is putting a lot of resources within Lamu and therefore leaving other areas open they can also exploit,” he said.

    According to historians, regional politics has fueled episodic violence since Kenya gained independence in the 1960s, when Kikuyu communities were settled in some coastal areas, especially Lamu county, where they were provided with title deeds, a document the indigenous people did not possess.

    Most political figures from coastal regions have since campaigned on a local land rights platform, and last year's general election was no different. Lamu Governor Issa Timamy was arrested and taken to court last month in connection with the recent violence, although he has yet to be charged.

    On Thursday a Nairobi court charged four terror suspects, one Ugandan and three Kenyans, who were arrested with bomb-making materials over the weekend in Mombasa's impoverished Majengo neighborhood.

    For coastal residents like Diana, however, the culture of fear and violence is breeding xenophobia. 

    "It has been very good, but now when these things happened, people ended up hating one another," she said. "When one sees a [coastal] or Swahili person, one ends up saying that 'this people they are one of those people who killed our people,' so the hate rate is kind of starting something that was not there."

    Kenyan authorities have sent thousands of security forces to pursue the attackers, who are believed to be hiding in the Boni National Reserve, a densely-canopied forest situated in north of Lamu county along the Somalian border.

    Al-Shabab insurgents have repeatedly vowed to carry out attacks in Kenya to avenge the presence of Kenyan troops fighting the Somali-based militants alongside African Union peacekeeping forces.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.