Nairobi, Kenya: A regular visitor or shopper in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate who knows about the hustle and bustle of business in that area would be left in shock if he visited ‘Little Mogadishu’ today. Far from its usual commercial vitality, and business activity, as thousands of people stream in and out of shops and restaurants, the place is a pale shadow of its former self thanks to a massive police operation in the past week that has left most residents traumatised and kept shoppers away. The operation, that comes after twin attacks in the estate, was supposed to secure the area, but many residents view it as “police terror”, saying they are being arrested arbitrarily and forced to part with huge sums of money to secure their freedom. In most shops The Standard visited on Monday, traders just sat idly, with few customers in sight. Police officers in their green uniforms litered the street and only a few residents could be seen walking around.
“To us, the operation is doing more harm than good. Business has been harmed badly. Many people have lost their money and valuable belongings to police officers,” said a clothes trader Ahmed Yusuf, whose shop is on Eighth Street. Â “Instead of carefully looking for possible criminals, police seem to have taken advantage of the situation to rob people. Unfortunately, they have done little to improve our security except line their pockets,” he added. A restaurant owner on Twelfth Street, Umal Hassan, said business has ground to a halt.
“My hotel was always full of customers, but now it is deserted. All the food and drinks are just rotting in the kitchen. Police have scared everyone off since they have repeatedly arrested customers inside the hotel even before they finish eating their food. This is terrible,” he said. The number of people attending early morning and late night prayers in mosques has also reduced drastically with most choosing to pray in their homes. Inhuman treatment Â “Even if you have a genuine identity card, they still arrest you claiming that it is forged.Â They release you after parting with cash. I paid Sh3,000 to be released,” said Abdilattif Ibrahim, a resident.
Sheikh Abdillahi Mohammed decried the inhuman treatment residents are being subjected to. “It is very unfair to always say that people of a certain community are a security threat and blaming them for all the in security incidents. Why are Eastleigh residents taken to be guilty before being proven innocent instead of the other way around?” he wondered. Clothes trader Abdi Yusuf, was bitter about how police mishandled him and his wife while they were in their shoe shop on Fourth street. “I was talking to a customer, while my wife was seated at the back of the shop. Without any warning at least 10 police officers stormed into my shop and started dragging me out as if I was a dangerous criminal,” he recalls. “They began pushing me down the street, without even bothering to ask me whether I have an identity card or not. Others remained in my shop.Â After a short while, some of them began dipping their hands into my pocket. They took my smart phone and Sh15,000 before letting me go,” he added. “When I went back to my shop, I found that my wife had also lost her gold chain and Sh30,000 fromÂ her purse. I feel so bitter. Did they come to provide security or steal from us?” he asked.