Somalis in Kenya: ‘they call us ATM machines.’

Published: 24/Nov/2011

By Mary Harper Do you know what the Kenyan police call Somalis?” asked a successful Somali businessman from his office in downtown Nairobi. “They call us ATM machines. That’s because the only way we can navigate the situation here is to bribe the police at every turn.” The man never uses his name in dealings with the authorities because it would be “commercial suicide”, and, to make things easier, he has a non-Somali business partner. He has good reason to speak like this. Life is becoming increasingly difficult for Somalis in Kenya. They are treated with suspicion even though many of them are natives of the country. In central Nairobi, I watched every ethnic Somali – identified by the security guard by their distinctive physical features — being scanned with a metal detector and searched as they entered an office block; non-Somalis were left alone. In August this year, the Central Bank of Kenya directed all financial institutions in the country to monitor the transactions of Kenya-based Somalis suspected of having links with Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

Link to African Arguments website: Somalis in Kenya: ‘they call us ATM machines.’

Themes: Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious
Regions: East Africa, Kenya
Year: 2011