NAIROBI, KENYA - A nongovernmental organization is accusing Kenyan security forces of making dozens of people disappear since 2012. Its report focuses on Kenya's coastal communities, where there is a large Muslim population.
"What Do We Tell the Families?" from Haki Africa details the deaths or disappearances of 81 people during that time. Twenty-two of the deaths allegedly were caused by excessive force by police; four occurred in police custody; 31 involved cases of alleged extrajudicial execution; and 24 were thought to be enforced disappearances.
Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid said Kenya's counterterrorism police and members of specialized units were involved in the cases, and the victims all had something in common.
"Although most victims on our list are youths, there are also sheiks, imams and preachers, some of them well over 50 years old," Khalid said. "The common thread is that all victims are Muslims. All fall into a category of being perceived by authorities to be actual or potential terror suspects."
Haki Africa interviewed relatives of the victims, witnesses and government officials.
One woman, Muna, who did not use her real name, said police picked up her husband a year ago, and she wants to know where they took him. She said her children ask her every day where their father is. She does not know what to say.
Caught between violent forces
Coastal communities in Kenya have been increasingly caught between violence meted out by Kenya's security agencies and the threat of violence by extremist groups against those who do not share their views.
The report said the extrajudicial killings and disappearances have taken place amid a wider set of "iron fist" tactics deployed by counterterrorism forces. The result is that many coastal communities perceive themselves as victims of collective punishment, eroding trust between community members and authorities.
The report also said authorities have failed to conduct proper investigations into the disappearances and have given no official confirmation of the identity of the perpetrators.
The Independent Police Oversight Authority has the powers to investigate the police, but not other security departments. Its chairman, Macharia Njeru, said, "There is no doubt whatsoever that we cannot counter radicalization, we cannot deal with terrorism, by breaking the law. That is totally inexcusable. We are a constitutional democracy, and there cannot be any excuse at all for members of the national police service or indeed any other member of the national police organs not adhering to the rule of law."
Haki Africa's Khalid said he strongly believed that the best weapon available to fight the injustices of terrorism was the promotion of human rights, rule of law and a just society.