Standard Digital News - Kenya : Somalis: Kenya is our home too and we are not a security threat
When Operation Usalama Watch began nearly a month ago in Nairobi's Eastleigh estate, a tinge of sadness came over Hussein Guleid, a prominent businessman there.
He is a Kenyan in every sense of the word, just like his father, who served the Kenyan people with loyalty as a police officer until his retirement. But when hundreds of policemen descended into Eastleigh ostensibly to weed out terrorists suspected to have taken refuge there, a feeling of despondency descended upon him.
"I saw the way those people's lives have been torn apart and I thought to myself this could easily have been my own fate," Mr Guleid says.
The security operation has elicited a lot of reactions: Support for it from the Government and a majority of Kenyans and condemnation from the civil society and the Somali community. For Guleid, who also chairs the Eastleigh Businessmen Association, the crackdown has had him interrogating his identity as a Kenyan Somali.
"I am a Kenyan through and through. I was born here and I do not know anywhere else to call home. But when such things happen, they make me feel like an alien. Does Kenya want us, does Kenya appreciate us?" he said.
These same questions are probably in the hearts and minds of nearly three million Somalis in Kenya, even as Somali leaders fear for what they see as increasing xenophobic feelings by non-Somali Kenyans.
"The trend has been that security forces have been against us, but we have had the ordinary wananchi on our side. But there is a worrying element of intolerance against Somalis from the streets and even in the media," he said.
This sentiment, he noted, has taken root over the past five years in which Kenya has suffered more than 80 terrorist attacks attributed to Somalia's al-Shabaab militants.
Nairobi lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi blamed the Government for sowing the seeds of anti-Somali sentiment through its fight against the militant group.
"A small group of top security officials has been instrumental in selling the message that Somalis are the cause of all security problems and more so in this country," he said.