Violence in Kenya hurts trade

The World

MW �now many Westerners know it as a vacation destination, the city of Mombassa, it’s got white sand, beautiful coral reefs; what is the scene in Mombassa today? are residents out on the streets?� WM �they were not on the streets today, they were yesterday in sizeable numbers and tomorrow, Friday, they’ll be I expect in even greater numbers. Usually the demonstrations follow on the midday prayers which Muslims have. It’s been to some extent predominantly Muslims demonstrating here though there have also been other communities here who are non-Muslim.� MW �And can you tell me what changed between yesterday and today? why is nobody on the streets today?� WM �well there’s a very strong police presence everywhere and also there’s a limit, some of these things take organization. What I saw on TV yesterday, many of the key Muslim leaders had tear gas tossed at them. It takes a while to recover from that sort of thing.� MW �now the other thing that’s remarkable about Mombassa is it’s a key port that services much of Eastern and Central Africa. Are goods moving through the port now or is that at a standstill?� WM �It was at a standstill until about three days ago. It’s now beginning to move but there is a huge backlog of containers at the port. It’ll take some time to clear. Four days of the port not working is a long time.� MW �About 10% of Kenya is Muslim but Mombassa is a largely Muslim city itself. How do you think the followers of Islam in Mombassa see the controversy over the election results?� WM �well before the election there was a memorandum of understanding signed between Odinga and some of the key Muslim leaders. They had a very specific motive for this. It was felt that if President Kibaki won and we didn’t have to worry about reelection because constitutionally he cannot run again, he might pass the suppression of Terrorism Act. Now this is something very familiar to the Patriot Act, which Americans would be very familiar with. It’s something designed to make it possible without his lawyer having been informed, to be held for long periods without being told what he’s charged of and things like that. Now this was felt by the Muslim community as specifically targeting them and that’s not just being paranoid. If you’re from Somalia, a number of Muslims who were found at the border, there was doubt that if had they come running in from Somalia where they had no business being, were they just at the border, so a number of young Muslims are arrested, rendered to Ethiopia, and from there some of them are said to be in Guantanamo. This brought about a lot of bitter feelings in the Muslim community. They said, the young men may or may not have been guilty of anything to do with terrorism, but why were they not given a fair trail on Kenyan soil which they were entitled to as Kenyan citizens? So that was a turning point and Mr. Kibaki lost a lot of votes for having been a friend of the US in that instance.� MW �I would guess what happened in the wake of the election at the end of December hasn’t really won him any new support in the area of Mombassa?� WM �many of them feel that if Kibaki is president for another five years, given what they’ve seen in the past, what safety is there for the young Muslims any of whom could be taken off the street and sent to another country on the accusation that he had links to terrorism.� MW �on the other hand, Mombassa is not immune to terrorism. In 2002, terrorists struck the Israeli owned Paradise Hotel in Mombassa, they killed 13 people. And they also attacked an Israeli charter plane flying out of Mombassa. Tell us a little bit more about the growing influence of radical Islam in Mombassa. Has it proceeded in its pace since 2002?� WM �the Muslims I’ve spoken to, they all say the lasting period of violence, this isn’t Afghanistan or anywhere else. Of course they bitterly resent the American presence in Iraq, as many other Muslims around the world do. But it’s when you find people within your country maybe people known to you who have been arrested and sent off to jail in a different country on allegations that they were involved in terrorism and no proof has been put down on anything, that sort of thing would scare anyone who has children. And this is a fear specific to Muslims.�

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