, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 – Mohammed Adow is a man unafraid to cry on camera and certainly not when the subject matter touches close to home as it did in the documentary Not Yet Kenyan.
The documentary which is part of the Al Jazeera Correspondent series examines the relationship that Kenyan-Somalis have had with security agents since independence and Adow’s experience as a Kenyan-Somali.
“It’s the story of my life, how I grew up in North Eastern, how the people of that region got a raw deal in terms of development but also how the only government representatives they would see were the policemen and the military who kicked down people’s doors as they came looking for people who didn’t have identity cards,” Adow told Capital FM News in an exclusive interview.
A state of affairs he traces back to the independence period when the now Kenyan-Somalis did not want to be part of Kenya but the greater Somalia.
“It’s all a continuation of the government policy as well as the mentality then that we were people of dubious loyalty. People who wanted to secede from Kenya. But again it’s 50 years down the line. So much water has passed under the bridge. I believe we should be judged by our actions of today not the actions of our past,” he said.
But Not Yet Kenyan comes against the backdrop of the terror attack on the Westgate mall and the revelation that that the terrorists lived in the Kenyan-Somali dominated Eastleigh for months prior to the September 21 attack.
This led the government to unveil the Nyumba Kumi (ten homes) initiative in a bid to get Kenyans to know their neighbours and therefore be better able to spot suspicious activity they would in turn report to the police.
Adow however doesn’t believe this would work in the Kenyan-Somali community that views security agencies with suspicion.
“There is a dis-connect between the police and the people. The do not volunteer information because they fear reprisals. In other words they’re not protected to the extent that they can feel confident to take information to the government.”
Adow himself isn’t fully trusting of the security agencies either, “I’ve been a reporter in that region and I know so much goes on that has got the involvement of government officials.”
His mistrust however is more deeply seated. It emanates from years of being woken in the night, having the beddings pulled off him as security agencies sought to establish his nationality.
“I’ve watched my mother get slapped without doing anything while she was sitting. I’ve watched my father repair the door to our house almost every other week because the security forces instead of politely knocking, would come down with the door,” he recalled.
The most horrific of the experiences he recounted however was the Garissa Massacre of 1980 which he witnessed at the age of five.
“You know how you might find it hard to recall things that happened just two weeks ago? I remember every detail about this night. I remember how my mother opened the door when we heard people running. How she had to fight off a man who thought I was his son and how we hid in the bushes.”
In Not Yet Kenyan Adow goes on to explain how his father almost lost his life in the massacre to a firing squad and ended up losing his land and home.
“It goes on to this day; just months ago, the Garissa market was torched by security personnel after some of their own were killed. Why must an entire community be punished for the crimes of a few bad elements who are there in every society?” he posed.
It’s a question he poses in the documentary to the now former Police Spokesman Charles Owino whose response is:
“It is because the community does not open up. These are people from one community. Whether you are Somali from Kenya or Somali from Somalia, these are brothers and sisters.”
And it’s this, “you people,” mentality that leaves Adow shedding tears at the end of the documentary when he meets the mother of a friend who was killed by a military bullet when trying to calm protesters following the burning of the Garissa market.
“I think there needs to be a distinction between the refugee population from Somali who came after the 1991 civil war broke out in Somalia and the Kenyan-Somalis. We are not immigrants…we live in the land that our ancestors lived in. We bring our own land as a contribution to the country called Kenya.”
Fade to black.