Residents in Mpeketoni and its environs have decried harassment from security officers conducting the ongoing security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab in the region.
The residents who talked to the Nation this week said security officers, especially the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers, have been harassing them during their daily night patrols.
Led by Hongwe Ward Rep James Komu, the residents called on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to intervene to end their suffering.
Mr Komu said he has been receiving complaints almost on a daily basis from his constituents who claim KDF soldiers subject them to cruel treatment, including beatings.
“We don’t have a curfew in place in Mpeketoni, Hongwe and Kibaoni. Why are the KDF harassing innocent locals especially at night? People can’t walk around even by 8pm. KDF should stop harassing our people. Some are even forced to drink dirty water on the roads. That’s inhumane,” said Mr Komu.
LIVING IN FEAR
Another villager, Mr Simon Kimani, said they have been living in fear.
“Some of us have ensured we are in our houses by 6pm to avoid any confrontation with the soldiers who seem to have perfected the art of harassment. You can’t tell me to lie in a pond of dirty water and pretend I haven’t been harassed. We need to be told if a curfew still exists in Mpeketoni. It’s unfair to subject us to any form of harassment in the name of doing patrols,” said Mr Kimani.
The locals called on the KDF to stop victimising them even us they fight the Al-Shabaab militants.
“We are peace lovers but they treat us though we were the enemy. We feel it’s unfair for the KDF to target us in the war on Al-Shabaab instead of focusing their efforts on the real issues causing insecurity and terrorism in the county,” said one of the residents who refused to be named for fear of being targeted by the security agencies.
Contacted, KDF Spokesperson David Obonyo said his officers do not harass locals but instead they have tried to build a good relationship with them to make their work easier.
On Wednesday, Mr Obonyo said they held a meeting with Mpeketoni residents, including boda boda operators and opinion leaders, but no one raised any complaint about the alleged harassment subjected to them by KDF soldiers operating in Lamu.
“What came out during the meeting at Mpeketoni is that police officers in the region were frustrating the locals by demanding bribes from them on a daily basis. As for KDF, we can’t harass mwananchi since doing so will make our work even more difficult. We have maintained a good relationship with the locals who have also been very useful in our course of duty. Maybe you ask our counterparts from the National Police Service in the area about the harassment,” said Mr Obonyo.