Kenyan security agents abducted, tortured, and forcibly disappeared a milk vendor in Garissa, our probe shows.
We have identified the victim as Irshad Hajir.
Hajir is aged 35, has three children — the youngest is a-year-old.
His abduction occurred in the hands of three security agents on eve of the international day of victims of enforced disappearance on August 30. It sparked a sporadic protest from dozens of Hajir kins.
Forced disappearances in the country have been spiking since President Uhuru Kenyatta administration took over in 2013.
The human rights abuses are worsening at the Coast and Northeastern, two regions where MUHURI has established functional offices to record and check police excesses.
The government has perfected involuntary abduction as a counterterrorism strategy. But it is backfiring and causing widespread fury in volatile areas like Garissa.
The tactic is netting innocent individuals or just mere suspects who end up tortured, untraced, or extrajudicially murdered.
Missings Voices has proved at least 153 national incidents of forced disappearances this year. It amounts to an average of 19 people a month since January. Security agents extrajudicially took out some 285 people in Kenya, the group data shows.
Missing Voices is a group of organizations, including MUHURI, whose mission is to shine light upon extrajudicial executions.
In Hajir case, his armed abductors did not disclose why and where they took him.
Hajir abduction occurred at 5 pm within Soko Ng’ombe, Waberi ward in Garissa Township.
Hajir was in the company of his brother, Sayat Hajir, looking for Carmel milk to trade.
Each of the three security agents had handguns concealed by oversize shirts. They were plainclothed. The agents laid an ambush on Hajir and his brother.
The officers were ready to draw and discharge their firearms at the slightest provocation.
MUHURI understands the would-be abductors said they were security agents but did not specify their formations.
To remain ghosts, the trio concealed-carried, consequently covering their formation.
By revealing the type of handguns they possessed, these security agents would have exposed their formation, easing a hunt down and intensifying scrutiny.
When Sayat pressed hard to know their identities, the security agents punched his face “for being inquisitive”.
The agents tossed Hajir on the backseat, sandwiched him, and sped off in a blacked-out Toyota Probox with registration KAT 002Q. Police would later say the car plate is fake and denied involvement.
Sayat and MUHURI have not located Hajir within police stations in Garissa Township. His family is raising concerns about his safety and failing health.
Hajir fate appears to be in the control of his abductors and their masters – or a judge who can be moved by a habeas corpus, a writ requiring a person under arrest brought into court. Or maybe the sovereign power exercised by locals through massive, well-sustained protests.
CIA, MI6 links to covert ops
MUHURI found similarities between Hajir abduction and security operations by government agents at the Coast, especially in Mombasa. The abductions are often forceful and conducted by at least three plainclothes officers who hardly brandish their firearms. There’s always a waiting car where a victim gets bundled at the rear seat or a trunk. The cars’ number plates are fake. The abductors are often not security agents from the operational area. The authorities would deny any connections; however, emerging evidence would later incriminate them.
“Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy,” MUHURI chairman, Khelef Khalifa, said.
A recent months-long, detailed probe into extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya by UK’s investigative journalist, Namir Shabibi, implicates a secret unit, Rapid Response Team (RRT).
The dossier, published by Daily Maverick, exhaustively breaks down how Americans and Brits have been training, funding, and getting hands-on in RRT’s bloody, fatal, and highly covert operations.
USA is involved in RRT counterterrorism operations – which cause extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances – through its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Britain relies on its Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6.
CIA and MI6 gather intelligence on their targets for RRT, which proceeds to act by either shooting dead, arresting or rendering depending on an individual’s stake. RRT takes out people CIA and MI6 consider threats.
Most of the CIA and MI6 targets are Muslims accused of engaging in terrorism. Some targets are arrested. Others are extraordinarily rendered. Many are killed.
Sometimes CIA-backed RRT gets the wrong man.
We are yet to establish whether RRT – which CIA in 2004 morphed from General Service Unit (GSU) and ran it in the shadows of Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) – is involved in Hajir abduction.
An OB number 53/29/08/2020 is one of the shreds of evidence that primarily links security agents to Hajir abduction.
Kilifi clerics abducted
About two weeks earlier on August 16, dozens of security agents abducted two Muslims clerics and a Mosque gardener in Mtondia, Kilifi, some 400 kilometres south of Garissa.
Just like in Hajir case, the agents also terrorised those close to Markaz Noor preachers, Khalid Swaleh and Juma Shamte, and a planter only identified as Hassan. They threatened to open fire to defenceless and unarmed family members.
Swaleh and Shamte stayed missing for about two weeks until August 25. They are still shocked and have not divulged crucial details of their abduction – who captured them, what was the motive, where were they imprisoned, did they got tortured to extract confessions under duress, and many more.
Equally, the security apparatus denied involvement in Kilifi abduction, despite witnesses’ accounts and the pattern of the operation confirming their direct link. MUHURI is yet to trace the gardener.
Sayat prays that his brother, Hajir, will return alive – and well.