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Mpeketoni residents up in arms after KDF soldiers force them to swim in muddy waters

Mpeketoni residents are up in arms after KDF soldiers forced them to roll and swim in a muddy sewage after they were found walking at night.

They said ruthless soldiers conducting the Linda Boni operation are harassing them.

The latest incident happened on Monday when those walking home from their places of work were forced to roll in muddy sewage.

Kathleen Wanjiru said she met the soldiers on her way home after closing her pub in Mpeketoni at about 11pm.

Attempts to explain to the soldiers where she was coming from fell on deaf ears. She said the officers asked for her ID card which she showed them. They then insisted that she swims in the sewage.

“They said they would teach me a lesson so I won’t walk at night again. It was the most humiliating experience of my life,” Wanjiru said.

Wanjiru said she was in skirt suit. The soldiers ordered her lie in the ditch and roll without removing any cloth.

The soldiers stood on the ditch laughing as their captives rolled in the mud, Wanjiru said.

“I was not alone. I saw an elderly man who is respected in Mpeketoni also undergoing the same. It was very embarrassing,” Wanjiru said.

Boda boda rider Kimani Hassan said they were ordered to keep motorcycles out of the road by 6pm.

Those found on the road beyond the time are subjected to dehumanizing punishments, he said.

“Sometimes you are forced to carry the motorbike on your head. It doesn’t matter if the motorcycle is loaded or not. You have to lift it and jump with it like a frog,” Hassan said.

He said a soldier would be counting until one has jumped 10 times before one is released or ordered to undertake another punishment or repeat the process.

“It’s painful. I almost broke my back because I wasn’t able to lift the bike, so they kicked me all over,” Hassan said.

Other residents said they were forced to frog-jump countless times until the soldiers felt it was enough.

Wainaina Kimaru who operates a matatu business between Lamu and Mpeketoni said he was forced to do 100 frog jumps.

He said he suffers from high blood pressure and the punishment almost killed him.

“By the time they were telling me to go, I could barely stand. I collapsed in front of them but they just laughed and left me there,” Kimaru said.

He said his conductor drove the vehicle to Mpeketoni hospital where doctors said he suffered heart attack due to the strenuous jump.

“The soldiers are merciless,” Kimaru said.

Operation Linda Boni was launched in 2015 with main objective of flushing out Al shabaab militants from inside the Boni forest.

The operation was initially meant for Basuba, Milimani, Mararani, Mangai, Kiangwe, Bodhei, Sangailu, Masalani, Galmaghala and all other areas around the Boni forest.

However the operation was eventually extended to include Mpeketoni, Ijara, Witu, Pandanguo, Poromoko and parts of Kilifi county.

However the recent mistreatment of innocent unarmed civilians who were heading home after a day’s work by making them roll in mud has sparked outrage from locals and human rights groups in the region who want the matter probed and action taken against the concerned officers.

Haki Africa representative in Lamu Yunus Issakia urged Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to intervene.

Issakia said residents were being harassed yet there was no curfew in the region.

“If the curfew is back, let the government inform residents instead of the harassment in the hands of KDF,” Issakia said.

Unfair and unacceptable.We want the CS to do something about this.These are people who are being treated like animals,yet they didn’t commit any crime,”said Issakia.

A senior KDF official said they were investigating the matter.

“If any of our officers will be found culpable, then be sure the right measures will be instituted against them.The soldiers have no right to harass people. It’s not part of their mandate,” the officer said.

Efforts to reach Lind Boni Operation director Joseph Kanyiri were futile as his phone was switched off.

By CHETI PRAXIDES

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