Today was supposed to be explosive in Kenya as Muslim activitists took to the street. They can’t. They’re mostly behind bars.
Over the last three days Kenyan authorities have arrested up to 2,000 Muslims across the country, most of them jailed for being “illegal immigrants.”
The crackdown followed last Friday’s riots in Nairobi, provoked (according to the government) by Muslim militants backed by al-Qaeda in Somalia (al-Shabaab). The demonstrators were demanding the release of cleric Abdullah al-Faisal, who the government has been trying to deport.
And further government embarrassment, yesterday: After weeks of trying to get commercial airlines to take Faisal out of the country, the government chartered its own Gulfstream jet wihch broke down on the runway before take-off.
As far as we know, Faisal is still in the country. And activist Muslims are still in jail.
By early afternoon today in Kenya all was calm.
Friday during prayers Muslim leaders around the country told their faithful to avoid further demonstrations. A statement read in thousands of mosques from the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims condemned the police action but called on all Muslims — particularly infuriated youth — to stay at home, today.
Click here for the full statement as reprinted by Kenya’s FM Capital radio.
Officially the government claims that 1200 “illegal immigrants” have been detained. Unofficially, police put the number closer to 2000. Around 400 have already appeared in court.
Among those known detained are refugees from Somali, including two army generals and 11 Members of Parliament that had fled the growing military success of the al-Shabaab militia.
This is not good.
Many of the Somali refugees in Kenya are not radical; in fact, just the opposite. They’ve fled the fighting there because they are targets of the radicals. In all likelihood, they were moderating influences among Kenya’s Muslim community.
Thursday, a widely circulated internet site claiming to be al-Shabaab posted videos of militant jihadists shouting, “God willing we will arrive in Nairobi, we will enter Nairobi, God willing we will enter … when we arrive we will hit, hit until we kill, weapons we have, praise be to God, they are enough.”
But in a telephone interview with Reuters, today, al-Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage denied the site was authentic and said the organization had nothing to do with last Friday’s riots in Kenya.
Now, what? And can anybody get that plane off the ground?