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21 January 2010

Pentecostal Churches Appeal For End to Demonstrations by Muslims in Kenya

The Pentecostal Bishops in Nairobi led by Bishop Margret Wanjiru of Jesus is Alive Ministries (JIAM), have extended an olive branch and appealed to the Muslim faithful to put off the planned demonstration slated for today- Friday in

Mombasa city. “We request those who have called for a second demonstration in Mombasa’s Central Business District (CBD) to call it off. Kindly let us avoid any further demonstrations and let us promote peace,” said the clerics in a statement read on their behalf by Bishop Wanjiru whose Starehe Constituency falls in Nairobi City, last Friday’s battle ground between the police and Muslim protestors. The clerics converged yesterday at JIAM headquarters after information filtered to the public during the week that more protests were likely this Friday in the coastal city and even Nairobi, following the Kenyan government planned deportation of radical Jamaican Muslim preacher, Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal.

At the same time, Wanjiru, an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Housing in Kenya, dismissed claims in a section of the media that she organised traders within Nairobi’s CBD to join the police against the demonstrators. “That is not true. That particular Friday I was in Mau planting trees. It shocked me when I heard over the FM stations that some people are claiming that I organised the NCBD traders to join the police and fight the demonstrators,” the assistant who read the statement on behalf of the other evangelists said. The bishop told journalists that she has a clue that a senior cabinet minister was behind the rumours that she organised the traders to join the police in fighting back against the protestors. “However, as a member of parliament for the NCBD which is within Starehe Constituency I call upon all citizens to live and work in peace,” said Wanjiru who extended an olive branch to the Muslim Community in Kenya. “To our Muslim community, we from the Christian faith have nothing against you and therefore we desire to live in harmony all of us as Kenyans,” said the assistant minister who was flanked by Bishop Justus Wanjala of Gospel Lighthouse Church and Bishop Joshua Mulinge representing God’s House of Miracles. She said last Friday’s demonstration in Nairobi resulted to economic losses amounting to KSh350 million worth of property destroyed and disruption of businesses. “These demonstrations brought business to a standstill and the financial figures are rising every day as the owners of the damaged properties continue to repair,” she added.

The assistant minister said such incidences are unnecessary yet two years down the line Kenyans have not recovered from the major economic dent incurred following the 2007 post election violence. Reports indicate that the Muslims have vowed to continue with the demonstrations until their rights of free expression are safeguarded. “He has targeted Muslims and we are ready. We declare that we shall fight to safeguard our rights,” said Sheikh Abubakar Sharif Mohammed after Mombasa Muslims Youth met the Central Police Station police boss, David Njeru. Mr. Abubakar was reacting to assertions by Internal Security Minister, Prof. George Saitoti on Tuesday that the Friday protest was organised by Al Shabaab, the Somali affiliate of the al Qaeda terrorist network. They are protesting over the police handling of their Friday demonstration for the release of Jamaican preacher Sheikh al-Faisal. Yesterday, a government source revealed that Jamaican preacher Sheikh al-Faisal was due to be deported within 48 hours. The government has also arrested Alamin Kimathi, the organizer of Friday’s protest.

The government also rounded up hundreds of Somalis, including 12 MPs, in Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru after Internal Security minister George Saitoti claimed. “This country will not be a play ground for foreign criminals,” an angry Saitoti said on Saturday after a security meeting at Harambee House. Muslim leaders in Mombasa confirmed there will be more demos on Friday and cautioned Saitoti against claiming the demonstrators were al Qaeda. Muslims leaders in Nairobi said they would meet today to finally decide whether to call more demonstrations, He said Saitoti was wrong to claims that the flag used by Nairobi demonstrators belonged to Al-Shabaab since it represented the Muslim faith. “The same flag is used at the Saudia Arabian embassy,” said Sheikh Sharrif. “We shall go ahead with the demonstration that will begin from Makadara and Tononoka rounds up to the Provincial Commissioner’s office,” he said. In Nairobi, Muslim leaders condemned the police arrest of close to 400 people in Eastleigh estate on Sunday and said today’s meeting would reassess the situation.
“We have not yet made any decision on what to do next. We will know whether to hold another demonstration or not,” said Farouk Machanje, an official of the Muslim Human Rights Forum. Vice Chairman of the Eastleigh Business Committee Hussien Arr claimed that police took cash from shops and lodges in Eastleigh. “It was all chaos and massive destruction.

A considerable number of businesses have been disrupted and others are suffering from it,” said Arr. Eastleigh Air Base Councilor Abdifatah Ali complained that government always targets Eastleigh whenever there is a security problem, and said some of those arrested were elderly Kenyan citizens. One protestor was shot dead on Friday while five people, including a police officer, sustained gunshot wounds. At the Kibera Law Courts, 160 Somalis were arraigned before a Kibera court where they were charged with being in Kenya unlawfully. They denied the charge. Muslim human rights activist Alamin Kimathi was arrested yesterday shortly after seven suspects were charged at the Nairobi Law Courts for taking part in a demonstration. The suspects including a high school student denied charges ranging from theft, participating in an illegal demonstration, assaulting a police officer and destroying property. Kimathi is the chair of the Muslim Human Rights Forum that organised the Friday demonstration. Police pounced on him as he walked out of the courtroom.

Attempts by his lawyers and Muslim supporters to block the police from arresting him were thwarted by court guards who blew whistles and rushed him to the basement cells where he was held for ten minutes before he was whisked away in a police car. The lawyers protested against the arrest saying it was an “attack on the judiciary and the rule of law”. The Somali embassy in Nairobi yesterday confirmed the arrest of the 12 MPs including two army generals and directors of various government agencies. The embassy’s Consul General Mohamed Ali Osman said those arrested were attending a workshop organized by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. “We are puzzled by the fact that the police arrested innocent government officials who are in the country legally,” Osman said.

Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang yesterday said that the government had decided that Somali MPs should only conduct their business in Somalia. “Some of these people are connected to the fighting groups in their country where they cause war and run to hide in Kenya,” Kajwang said. The minister said Kenya had decided to expel all the MPs as a safeguard. “If we allow their continued stay here, these people will even start the war here in Kenya ; they were told to go home and make peace from their homeland.” The arrests follow Internal Security minister George Saitoti’s assertion that Al Shaabab had infiltrated the demo.
The operation under the supervision of Nairobi province police boss Anthony Kibuchi netted Somalis in Eastleigh, South C, Mlango Kubwa and various city hotels inbcluding La Mada hotel on Thika Road and Barakat Hotel in Eastleigh where the MPs and diplomats were booked in. Kibuchi confirmed that police were probing the MPs and other Somalis over their connections to al Shabaab and whether they took part in Friday’s violent demonstration. The police boss refused to release the names of the Somali MPs to the media but promised to avail it later. Among those arrested is a Somali national who is accused of having shot and wounded a GSU officer near the Jamia mosque.

The security operations also mopped up illegal immigrants for deportation in other towns. In Mombasa, 18 people were arrested in Magongo Suburbs and detained at Changamwe Police Station by officers from the Kenya police and the anti-terrorist unit. Mombasa police boss Tom Odero termed it a normal security operation adding that the suspects will undergo security checks. In Nakuru around 150 people were arrested on Sunday night.

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