30 October 2008

Kenya: Army Torture Claims Rejected

Nairobi — The Government has denied claims that security personnel tortured residents during a crackdown on illegal arms in Mandera.

Mandera Central District Commissioner Ole Tutuithe told the Nation that the injuries residents claimed were inflicted by security personnel were "stage managed".

Hidden gun

"From our records, only seven people sustained slight injuries in the operation."

He said only the regular and administration police were taking part, contradicting area police boss Stephen Chelimo who on Wednesday said that the exercise was a joint police, GSU and army operation.

But a Nation investigation revealed that the army was participating as two military choppers landed at Elwak airstrip on Wednesday to refuel.

It was also established that more than 200 patients were nursing injuries at two different hospitals.

A resident, Mrs Fathma Abdi said soldiers stormed into her house in Wargadud location, Mandera Central District at around 8 pm on Monday while she and her children slept.

"When I told them that my husband was not in, they started beating me," she said. "They said my husband had hidden a gun in the house but they did not look for it; instead they raped me as the children watched."

Deep cut

Mrs Abdi is one of nine women who say they were raped. And despite the vehement denials from DC Tutuithe, the Nation saw the wounds.

Mr Edwin Hassan is nursing a deep cut on his left hand. He said he was hit by a security officer after he declined to hand over Sh20,000 and his mobile phone.

Mr Ali Noor, a teacher at Elwak primary school said he was dragged out of class and beaten as his pupils watched.

The Nation also found four elderly men at the hospital who said they were beaten by the officers after they failed to produce their sons who the security officers said had guns.

Mr Abdul Haji, the district staffing officer, was dragged out of his office while attending to teachers seeking transfers on Monday.

"I told them I was a civil servant but was answered by blows and kicks. One officer told me to call Ongeri (Education minister) and tell him that I had been arrested."

DC Tutuithe said civil servants were colluding with militias, jeopardising security personnel's lives. "Doctors colluded with local residents who bandaged themselves ... those were ghost patients.

"I can also assure you there are no rape cases," he said.

Water and pasture have been the main source of the long-drawn conflict between the warring Murulle and Garre clans in Mandera.

At least 13 people have been killed and 31 houses burnt this month alone, according to Kenya Red Cross Society.

Watering livestock at Allango Dam has often led to confrontation and violence. The disputed Allango location, where the water point is located, is one of the main sources of water in the area and both clans have laid claim to it.

A councillor who was interviewed by the Nation said Mandera Central constituency was carved out of the then larger Mandera East to appease one of the clans, which had complained that it had been politically marginalised.

He said the current conflict was over administrative units and resources. "The Garre want their rivals to be confined to their traditional grazing areas.

"But the Murulle, who own a substantial number of livestock but have a smaller grazing area, insist that the area cannot sustain their animals."

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