Religious violence feared after bus bombing in Kenya

Youths armed with machetes and stones targeted civilians of Somali origin in revenge attacks after a bus bombing in Nairobi. Officials are urging calm, fearing religious violence.

AP
Somali youths throw stones in a street in Eastleigh Nairobi, Kenya, Monday. Police in Kenya have fired bullets into the air and tear gas into the streets to stop two groups from clashing one day after an improvised explosive device ripped through a bus which killed 10 people and injured another 30.

Fears of religious violence in Kenya are on the rise today following a weekend bus bombing in Nairobi’s predominately Somali neighborhood, the third explosion there this month.

Eyewitnesses said a male attacker, disguised in a Bui-Bui, a shawl often worn by Muslim women, threw an improvised explosive device into the minibus, tearing it apart and flattening its tires.  

“The terrorist’s intention is to cause friction between Christians and Muslims…. I urge for calm,” said Kenya’s Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Youths armed with machetes and stones targeted civilians of Somali origin in revenge attacks, accusing them of carrying out the Sunday bombing of a minibus, which killed 10 people and injured another 30. Using grenades and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), terrorist blasts have targeted churches and the police in the past, and now for the first time, public transport. There were warnings of an imminent terrorist attack, The Standard, a daily newspaper reported, but police focused on churches as potential targets. 

'Very bad'

Initial reports from Eastleigh show scores have been injured in the revenge violence thus far, focused primarily in the suburb popularly known as “little Mogadishu.” Many people of Somali origin, who fled the prolonged conflict back home, have settled here. Since their arrival, the once nondescript neighborhood has transformed into a thriving business enclave.

“This is very bad. To isolate the Somalis and target them because of the blast is very deadly. If we don’t arrest it, it may backfire into a religious war,” says Rev. Wellington Mutiso, the general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.

Many Kenyans are suspicious of Somali activities here, and now accuse the immigrant and refugee community of shielding Al Shabab, the Somali Islamists who promised to attack Kenya after the country sent its troops into Somalia in pursuit of militants in October 2011.

“We know Al Shabab recruited many Kenyans from all tribes and we believe the recruits have returned and [are] carrying out the attacks,” Reverend Mutiso says, despite urging people not to target members of the Somali community with retaliatory violence.

'Criminals ... not a particular community'

Yesterday evening, clashes between groups of youth left about 18 people nursing multiple machete and stone injuries after getting caught up in the violence. The violence broke-out soon after the Sunday afternoon attack on the minibus.

After a tense night in the suburb, the violence returned mid-morning today, with youths blocking roads and engaging riot police in foot chases.

“It is criminals who committed the crime, not a particular community. We must stop accusing people in a blanket manner,” Moses Ombati, Nairobi area police chief, told journalists at the scene of the violence.

“My brothers and sisters in Eastleigh, let us please maintain peace and calm. We cannot allow terrorist activities to divide us – Terrorism has no religion or community. By turning against one another, we are let[ting] terrorism win. The foundation of our prosperity is unity,” said Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s deputy prime minister on his Twitter Account.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.