Kenyan Police Accused of Abusing Somali Refugees in Nairobi

By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya — A new 68-page report from Human Rights Watch alleges that some 1,000 Somali refugees have been abused and arbitrarily detained by Kenyan police over the course of 10 weeks. The police abuse is believed to be retaliation for grenade attacks carried out in a mainly Somali section of Nairobi.

Ubah Abdi Warsame in her Nairobi apartment. (Photo courtesy of Aljazeera)

The police raids were carried out in accordance with a government plan to relocate Somali refugees from Eastleigh, or “Little Mogadishu”, to a large refugee camp outside of the city. Kenyan officials believe that moving the refugees will improve national security in the wake of attacks that are believed to have been carried out by Somalis.

Somalis report that police ransacked their homes, carried out beatings, and demanded cash payment. Seven women are believed to have been raped by the police and the refugees were repeatedly called ‘terrorists’.

Ubah Abdi Warsame, a 32 year-old mother of five, told Aljazeera that she was beaten by the police and then detained in squalid conditions for eight hours until a friend could pay the $60 bribe to get her released. “We’d got used to hassle from the police and paying small bribes,” Warsame, 32, said. “But when they started searching houses, beating Somalis and taking them to the cells, it was quite terrifying. I have nightmares because of the beatings I got from police.”

The police refute the allegations contained in the report. Police spokesman Masood Mwinyi told Sabahi that “The allegations by the refugees against [police] who protect them are total lies and unbelievable… It can never be that our way of operation is through torture, rape, extortion, arbitrary arrests and detentions. Our orders and policy is to protect everyone within our borders irrespective of social standing. If we were that bad as the report puts it, then I doubt we would be the largest hosts of refugees worldwide.” The police are to release a more comprehensive statement in the coming days.

Police in Kenya have a history of human rights and impunity issues that instigated police reform in 2010. Before the reforms the president had the power to hire and fire police chiefs which often lead to the harassment of political enemies and dissenters. A culture of corruption and bribe taking still exist as police officers are often underpaid, live in poor conditions, and are under-equipped and understaffed.


For more information, please see:

Washington Post — Kenya police accused of abuse, torture, rape of Somali refugees after terror attacks — 29 May 2013

Aljazeera —  ’10 weeks of hell’ for Somalis in Kenya — 29 May 2013

Sahabi — Kenyan police deny abuse allegations, watchdog agency to weigh in — 31 May 2013

Human Rights Watch — Kenya: Police Abuse Nairobi’s Refugees — 29 May 2013

Human Rights Watch — “You Are All Terrorists” — 30 May 2013

Author: Erica Smith

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