On the morning of Monday December 21, 2015, when a group of Muslim commuters on a Mandera-bound bus dared suspected al Shabaab militiamen to either kill all passengers or leave the targeted Christians alone, the media exploded into a frenzy.
Many Kenyans, including Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, commended those involved for their bravery as if this was the first such incident.
As a matter of fact, in all past terror attacks in Northeastern Muslims have defended Christians although in most cases they have been outsmarted by the criminals.
In the first terror attack at a Catholic church in Garissa town in June 2011, which claimed the lives of about 18 innocent worshipers, a Muslim Administration Police officer was the first victim after he attempted to stop the blood-thirsty assailants. Unconfirmed reports say the attackers gave the deceased officer the option of fleeing from the scene to save his live since he wasn’t their target.
Despite the Muslim soldier having a good opportunity to save his soul, he decided to fight back and brave death to rescue Christian lives. He was shot numerous time because the al Shabaab attackers were bitter with him for defending people they termed “infidels”.
And during the attack on Garissa University College last year, in which more than 142 students and six security officers were killed and 90 others injured, the first casualties were two Muslim night guards who tried to prevent the armed al Shabaab gang from entering the campus.
A police officer named Juma, a Muslim, was badly injured in the attack when he stormed the campus on a suicidal mission to save the students. In an interview, Juma said he knowingly put his life in grave danger because he was unable to bear the cries of the subdued students huddled in Elgon hostel, where they were taunted and jeered by their killers who then shot them one after the other.
Ibrahim Adan, a child activist in Garissa county, and his family whose house is adjacent to the ill-fated campus rescued over 20 students, mainly female, by helping them scale over the four-metre perimeter wire fence and accommodated them for the night.
He asked his children and other relatives to leave so that the rescued non-Muslim women students could hide inside his small house. His fear was that the murderers could be in pursuit of the escapees.
And on June 6 last year, landlady Mama Alasa was killed near Girfut stage in Wajir after she dared to confront and even wrestled to ground one an al Shabaab assailant, after his gang ignored her pleas not to kill her non-Muslim tenants. The rag-tag militia men described her as an “infidel” who attempted to sabotage their cause — humiliating a country that was persecuting people from the region on basis of the religious affiliation.
Similarly, Isnino Mohamed, a very young mother, was killed by al Shabaab on July 7 last year at Soko Mbuzi village at the outskirts of Mandera town. She was slain because she confronted al Shabaab gunmen on a mission to exterminate about 150 tenants living in the estate partly owned by her husband.
Northeastern regional coordinator Mohamud Saleh says Isnino died a martyr because she reduced the number of would-be casualties to 14 as the commotion she caused gave the marked stone masons ample time to scamper for safety.
In the September 21, 2013 Westgate terror attack, another Muslim Abdul Haji, put his life on the line by storming into the besieged shopping mall to rescue hundreds shoppers trapped by terrorists on the rampage.Unfortunately, most Kenyan Christians have risen to the bait dangled by the al Shabaab and stereotype and harass Muslims of Somali descent. The government has added insult to injury by carrying out merciless crackdowns on Muslim communities at the Coast, in Northeastern and in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate, accusing them of either being culpable or accomplices in terror attacks — despite them being the biggest victims of the assaults.
Many services including schools and health facilities have collapsed in Northeastern following a spate of terror attacks, as teachers, nurses and other professionals from other parts of the country fled.Many innocent people (since they were never found guilty by any court of law) were abducted by people suspected to be Kenyan security agents and days later found dead and dumped in swamps and bushes. Many are still missing.Kenyan security forces have carried out 25 extrajudicial killings and 81 “enforced disappearances” since 2013 in a crackdown on militants, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a government-funded agency said in its report in September last year. The government treat Muslims and Somalis with dignity and end the current profiling to defeat al Shabaab once and for all. The writer is social commentator and expert on Somali geopolitics. He is based in Garissa and occasionally does consultancy in security reporting in Somalia.