The Gharissa Massacre and East Africa’s post-colonial legacy

NCAFC condemns the heinous actions of al-Shabab in Garissa, Kenya, killing at least 148 people, and injuring 79 or more. We likewise rebuke the Western media for its apparent blackout in regards to the reporting on the university massacre; the lack of coverage – reinforcing the lack of respect and inferiority black bodies hold in the global south. NCAFC thirdly condemns the base accusations of populists who seek to claim this to be a religious-sectarian conflict, as the vast majority of victims of al-Shabab are Somali Muslims in Somalia. We uphold that the Garissa attack is the latest episode in an ongoing historical and socio-political struggle in East Africa, one in which the Kenyan government bears equal responsibility. A complete elaboration of this shall be released in a second following statement.

NCAFC acknowledges that such an attack has not occurred within a vacuum, and is the latest manifestation of the region’s colonial and post-colonial legacy. British Imperialism arbitrarily carved Kenya out of several East African territories, the largest chunk of which was the predominantly-Somali northeast. The two largest ethnic groups in Kenya – Kikuyus and Luos – were during the colonial period granted privileges and played off against each other at the detriment of the Somali community. Marginalised from the country’s very inception, Kenyan-Somalis have identified more with their ethnic counterparts in Somalia than with the rest of Kenyans. In a 1962 referendum, residents of the country’s northeast voted overwhelmingly to join Somalia. Refusing to accept the results, the Kenyan government have since engaged in a campaign of targeted marginalisation of its Somali community. (Ref: Garissa-Gubay massacre, 1980, 300+ Kenyan-Somalis killed; Wagalla massacre, 1984, 5,000 Kenyan-Somalis killed.)

The Financial Times reporting on the creation of a Kenyan colony in 1920

The Financial Times reporting on the creation of a Kenyan colony in 1920

The joint brutality of the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia (2006) and Kenya (2011) have alienated the Somali community as such to grant support for the terrorist organisation al-Shabab. The largest number of victims of al-Shabab are not Kenyans, Ethiopians, or others, but Somalis in Somalia. al-Shabab have imposed incredible tyranny on the population which has disabled them from rebuilding their war-torn country. The international community, including Africans, have been not only oblivious to the plight of the Somali people, but have turned them into a disposable political football since the collapse of their state in 1991. Britain’s colonial legacy in dividing Somalia was consummated by Ethiopia and Kenya in March 2013, whereby the two countries forced the fragile government of Somalia to partition yet another portion of itself; a quasi-independent entity known as Jubaland. This strip of land in southern Somalia and bordering on Kenya and Ethiopia is the illegitimate heir of both of these countries. Apart from international aggression, Kenya has seen that its domestic Somali subjects likewise face persecution, the latest manifestation of which is the “Kasarani Concentration Camp” opened in 2014, whereby thousands of Somali refugees including women, children and the elderly have been held in atrocious conditions, whilst humanitarian organisations have been denied entry. Since the Westgate attack last year, the Kenyan government have arrested 4,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Somali refugees. Somalis in Kenya live in fear of unwarranted arrest, beatings, rape and murder at the hands of the Kenyan government, and it is with them that NCAFC stand. NCAFC do not cherry-pick in condemnation; we oppose all acts of terrorism and brutality, be it from al-Shabab, or from the Kenyan government.

This article was written by Zakir Hussein Gul, a Kenyan member of the NCAFC Black Caucus and N.C.