The Somalia-based al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab has “ordered” Christians to leave three counties in northeastern Kenya to allow local Muslims to get all local jobs, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
“Muslim teachers, doctors, engineers, and young graduates from the northeastern province are unemployed. Isn’t it better to give them a chance? There is no need for the presence of disbelievers,” al-Shabaab’s spokesman, Sheikh Ali Dhere, said in an audio clip posted online, referring to the counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.
In the 20-minute clip, the spokesman urged Somali-Kenyans to drive all non-Muslims out if they do not leave on their own.
The majority of the people living in the three counties are Somalis, who fled to Kenya due to war and violence in Somalia.
“This is not news at all because the conduct of the local people here has always suggested that they want us to leave,” the Rev. Cosmas Mwinzi of the Assemblies of God in Garissa was quoted as saying. “This region has been unstable for years due to war in Somalia and hatred against non-locals who are mostly Christians. The levels of education and infrastructure in the three counties are low and it is only through the expertise and hard work of the non-locals that the living standard of the Somali people in Kenya can improve. We have non-locals in all sectors, from health to education.”
In January, three Christian teachers were murdered in the town of Kamuthe in Garissa County during an attack on a primary school believed to have been carried out by al-Shabaab. As a result, many non-local teachers were already being transferred to other schools outside northeastern Kenya, or teachers themselves were requesting transfers.
“This release is terrible news for Christians living and working in eastern Kenya,” Nathan Johnson, ICC’s regional manager for Africa, said. “They already live with increased fear and anxiety, as many have had to travel to find work. Now with this threat, it is clear that al-Shabaab will be increasing attacks on Christians who are simply trying to provide for their families.”
Last Wednesday, two Christians were reported to be among three people killed after suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a bus carrying passengers to the capital of Nairobi from a market town near the Ethiopian and Somalian borders.
Haji Abass, the owner of the Kenya-based Moyale Raha bus company, told The Associated Press that the militants were in police uniform and tried to flag down the bus. However, the bus driver kept on going because he knew there were no police stops along the route. At that point, the militants shot at the bus, flattened the back tires and injured the driver.
After the bus went into a ditch, militants allegedly pulled the passengers out and killed two non-Muslims and one Muslim. Two others were injured.
Kenya ranks as the 44th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.
Al-Shabaab has fought for years to overthrow the Somali government. The group has been responsible for attacks on both sides of the Somalia and Kenya border as it has long vowed to retaliate against Kenya for sending in troops to Somalia to fight the group.
In April 2015, al-Shabaab carried out one of its deadliest attacks when it stormed the campus of Garissa University. On that occasion, militants were said to have separated Muslims from non-Muslims and proceeded to execute all non-Muslim students. At least 148 people were killed in the attack.