FOUR IN A WEEK

The return of enforced disappearances in Kenya

'It’s better to have a dead body than to spend the rest of one’s life wondering whether a loved one is dead or alive'

In Summary

• The problem of enforced disappearances is becoming too serious to ignore.

• In less than a week, four people disappeared into thin air this December after being taken by persons who identified themselves as police.

Human rights activists submit their petition on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances at the Coast to Msambweni subcounty police commander on August 30.
MISSING: Human rights activists submit their petition on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances at the Coast to Msambweni subcounty police commander on August 30.
Image: SHABAN OMAR

The forces behind atrocities are at it again, forcefully disappearing people.

While Kenyans are looking forward to normalcy and their lives gong on following Covid-19, others are scheming and plotting to violate rights enshrined in the Constitution.

It is appalling that at a time Kenyans are pulling together to rebuild their lives, others are openly defying logic and engaging in some of the worst forms of human rights violations, thus pulling the people further apart.

This week, HAKI Africa reported the enforced disappearance of Ramadhan Bakari, a 17-year-old Form 2 student at Balozi High School in Nairobi. His mother, Rukiya Bakari, said her first-born son was arrested with his friend by persons who introduced themselves as police officers.

The friend was released a few hours later from Pangani police station but to date, Bakari is yet to be seen. The mother said she received no assistance from police when she reported the matter.

At one point, she was even asked by the police to pay for “fuel” and since she had no money, she had to ask relatives to get Sh2,000 to pay the police. Despite her efforts, the police did nothing.

At about the same time, HAKI Africa reported another disappearance, this time in Kisauni, Mombasa. The family of Seif Omar Abdalla said individuals armed to the teeth with guns and grenades raided their home and took away 33-year-old Seif and two other men.

Seif’s cousin, who was there during the raid, said the abductors threw grenades indiscriminately and demanded the door to be opened. Then they moved in and started beating Seif. They turned the house upside down.

They took photos of everyone, including children. They took away Seif and two tenants.

From these two incidences that occurred during the second week of December, four youths were forcefully taken, three of them disappeared, though Ramadhan's friend returned.

Ramadhan sold clothes to help his mother take care of their family, while Seif was a businessman and sole breadwinner for his wife and baby girl.

The families said the two did not have problems with the law or known enemies.

However, what we know for sure is that they were taken illegally and forcefully disappeared. Their families remain in the dark as to their whereabouts and the police have so far denied knowledge of the abductions.

Kenyans continue to be forcefully disappeared and there seems to be no respite.

The Constitution guarantees every Kenyan the right to security of person. This includes the right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause, and right not to be detained without trial.

In the absence of due process, including being held in communicado, Ramadhan and Seif’s constitutional rights have been grossly violated. If indeed it is the police who took them, then they have a duty to inform their families and afford the two their right to be heard in a court of law.

If it was not the security agencies who took them, then the police have a duty to investigate, find out who abducted them, rescue them and punish the abductors.

The problem of enforced disappearances is becoming too serious in Kenya. In the above examples, in less than a week, four people disappeared in December by people who identified themselves as police.

How many more disappearances will we hear of before something is done?

A government’s primary objective is to provide security. If people are forcefully disappeared and the government is not providing answers, then what moral and legal authority does it have to govern?

As we end 2020, Kenyans must resolve to end enforced disappearances. In the words of Seif’s wife, “It’s better to have a dead body than to spend the rest of one’s life wondering whether a loved one is dead or alive."