Exporting insurgency

"Exporting insurgency" Continued...

Issue: "Another dark day in America," Jan. 12, 2013

“Kenya is a free market country, so they are buying for commercial use and sellers don’t ask questions,” said the Christian leader. Adding to the growing Islamic presence, Somali and other investors with ties to Islamic groups have built shopping malls with retail space on the bottom two floors and a top floor set aside for use as a mosque. From the street in Eastleigh’s shopping district such malls display loudspeakers positioned on the rooftops for Muslim calls to prayer, and in some cases, minarets rising above dress boutiques. Inside, the imams are preaching radical Islam and some say raising funds for al Shabaab.

The transformation is forcing Christians who live in Eastleigh—Kenyan, Somali, or other—underground. “On Sundays we used to carry our Bibles and go to church,” said the Christian leader. “Now we have to hide. We have to be underground.” Worship and fellowship take place in houses away from public view, he said, and many who come are refugees—from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo—believers who say that despite the rising violence and persecution, they have nowhere else to go.

Fourth estate in exile

Somali journalists face threats, too, and obstacles to telling important stories

By Moses Wasamu

NO EASY LIVING: Garane consoles Jaceyl  (in bed) at a Nairobi hospital.
Handout photo
NO EASY LIVING: Garane consoles Jaceyl (in bed) at a Nairobi hospital.

Mohamed Garane, Mohydin Hassan, and Maahiye Abdinoor Yusuf have one thing in common: They are all Somali journalists exiled in Kenya as a result of war and terrorism in their country.

In 2008 there were about 380 journalists working in Somalia, but according to Garane, more than 80 have been exiled to different countries in East Africa. Many have fled as a result of persecution by militias and other groups hostile to the media. Life as a refugee isn’t easy, and restrictive laws in the countries where they are exiled make it hard for them to continuing working—and for important stories from Somalia to be told. 

Some, like journalist Hassan Jaceyl, don’t survive the war-time duty. Jaceyl died last year in a Nairobi hospital of injuries he suffered after coming under attack in Somalia.

Garane, who serves as training secretary of the National Union of Somali Journalists, says the 18 Somali journalists living in Nairobi cannot be employed legally because the government of Kenya refuses to give them the necessary documents. He’s worked to initiate talks with the Media Council of Kenya and the Kenya Union of Journalists to win recognition and accreditation from the Kenyan agencies for Somalis. And to secure their protection.

Mohydin Hassan, a news editor for Radio Shebelle in Mogadishu, had to flee the Somalian capital, Mogadishu, in 2012 after two men accosted him as he left work. They shot him and left him for dead. The assailants, suspected al Shabaab militants, fired seven bullets at him, and one hit him just above the chest. In April doctors flew him to Nairobi for further treatment and to escape from further suspected targeted attacks. Warring sides in the Somalian conflict target journalists to intimidate them into silence, Hassan said. Even after leaving Mogadishu, his assailants continued to threaten him through email, via his cell phone, and on Facebook. 

Maahiye Abdinoor Yusuf, another journalist from Somalia, has lived in exile in Kenya for the last two years. Like Hassan, he ran away from Baaidoa, an al Shabaab stronghold, after militants threatened his life. While he longs to work, and is prohibited, he also cannot go back home because of insecurity. 

In late August Somalia’s parliament overwhelmingly elected a new president, the first planned legitimate transfer of power in the country in more than 20 years of civil war. Since that time government forces fighting alongside African Union troops have made important gains against al Shabaab and other militant groups. Representatives of media organizations, human-rights groups, and union officials launched a campaign to bring militants to trial for their crimes, and to raise concern over the upsurge of human-rights violations against journalists. In 2012 nine journalists were killed, yet no one has been held accountable for those crimes.

Mohydin would like also to see a return of peace in his country so that he can return. For now, the exiled journalists living in Kenya have formed an umbrella organization, Somali Exiled Journalists Association. But they are waiting for a new level of stability under the new government—so they can get back to work.

—Moses Wasamu is a 2012 World Journalism Institute/Africa fellow and editor of South Sudan’s Christian Times, a newspaper published in Nairobi and South Sudan


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