NAIROBI, KENYA — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says deadly violence in two small towns in the coast region was ethnically motivated, despite a claim by the Somali militant group al-Shabab that it carried out the assaults. More than 60 people were killed in the attacks Sunday and Monday.
In an address to the nation Tuesday, Kenyatta said the attack in Mpeketoni and Mporomoko towns was not Islamic terrorism.
“The attack in Lamu was well-planned, orchestrated and politically motivated ethnic violence against the Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons," said Kenyatta. "This, therefore, was not an al-Shabab terrorist attack. Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous crime.”
Political tensions in Kenya have been on the rise in recent weeks, as the opposition demands the government convene a national forum to discuss the country's worsening security, economic and political situation.
In their recent political rallies, the opposition warned Kenyatta’s government to heed to the call for dialogue, or face further protest demonstrations.
Kenyatta says some politicians are preaching incitement and turning communities against each other.
“Dangerous leaders preach the insidious message that some people are holy, while others are evil," said Kenyatta. "The sum total of these campaigns is to portray certain people as less human and therefore less deserving of compassion and consideration.”
Members of the government led by Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, have been accused of favoring their communities in top government appointments, leaving other communities behind.
In Mpeketoni, visiting Interior Cabinet secretary Joseph Ole Lenku was jeered Tuesday when he tried to address angry residents.
Ole Lenku called on residents to help security officers nab the killers.
"Our country is being attacked," he said. "We said in the beginning that there was incitement in this country. You the citizens you have to help us because these people have not left the area. They are among you. If you won’t tell us who they are, then it will take us some time to know who they are.”
Gunmen stormed into another town Tuesday in the coastal region, 18 kilometers away from Mpeketoni, killing at least 10 people. Government officials say townspeople were kidnapped and houses torched before the attackers escaped into the nearby Boni forest.
Speaking in Kwale county Monday, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga accused [Cabinet secretary] Lenku of trivializing the issue, and called for his resignation.
Kenya has troops in Somalia fighting al-Shabab. In a statement to the media, the militant group said the Kenyan government is fighting a losing war and has turned its vengeance against Muslims in Kenya.
The militants said the raids were in response to Kenya's intimidation and oppression of Muslims, and the extrajudicial killings of Muslim clerics.
The group warned tourists visiting Kenya to stay away or suffer what it said would be the "bitter consequences of their folly."