Confusion reigned Tuesday over who allowed a section of the military to mount an operation in Garissa town on Monday after three of their colleagues were gunned down.
With allegations of high handedness against the soldiers mounting, Minister of State for Defence Yusuf Haji quickly distanced himself from the chaos, saying he did not know who sanctioned the operation by KDF in the town.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and nine other legislators — including Dujis MP Aden Duale and colleague Adan Keynan (Wajir West) — condemned the soldiers and threatened to seek the intervention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged human rights violations by the security forces.
“The women have been raped, schoolchildren shot and even Duale was held hostage in the town yet this is happening because of the failure of the Government to track down suspected Al Shabaab members suspected to have committed the killings (of the three soldiers),” said Maalim.
He demanded a ministerial statement from Haji over what he termed illegal actions by the military.
“Right now the entire Garissa is in tatters, millions have been lost after the military officers went burning businesses in the town. Many now have no meals yet they were wealthy people Tuesday,” said Maalim.
The National Security Council and Parliament, according to Sections 240 (8) and 241 (2) sub-section (c) of the Constitution, are the only organs that can approve military operations inside Kenya’s borders.
The Defence Council that includes Haji, Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Gen Julius Karangi, the commanders of the Army, Airforce and Navy and the Defence Permanent Secretary Nancy Kirui control and supervise KDF.
Residents of Garissa had claimed three people died in Tuesday’s skirmishes with police, but it emerged that only one succumbed to gunshot injuries.
Baton wielding police officers used tear gas canisters trying to repulse the charged mob in vain as more people charged at the law enforcers.
The overwhelmed policemen then began using live bullets to push the crowd back resulting in injuries to 17 civilians, five of them seriously.
A total of 57 people have been injured in Garissa since Monday, 48 of them allegedly beaten by soldiers on Monday, and 17 in Tuesday’s clashes.
Charged mobs ran across town from 9am battling anti-riot police and demanding justice following wanton destruction allegedly caused by soldiers on Monday.
A large group gathered at Garissa Primary School grounds and began chanting slogans, but the peaceful demonstration soon turned ugly as the mob hurled stones at the police.
Ambulances and taxis rushed the injured to Garissa District Hospital as the fighting continued into the afternoon.
A contingent of regular and Administration police led by area police boss George Losku resorted to live bullets after tear gas failed to deter the demonstrators.
There was no comment from police over the shooting, but the Minister for Internal Security, Mr Katoo Ole Metito told a Committee of Parliament the residents could have been incited to violence.
The streets of Garissa remained deserted for the whole day as police patrolled the town.
KDF soldiers who caused mayhem on Monday remained in their barracks. No one has been arrested over the killing of the three soldiers.
Among the 17 admitted in hospital were two high school students who were among hundreds of demonstrators protesting the destruction of millions of shillings worth of properties by the soldiers.
The soldiers allegedly went on the rampage following the killing of their three colleagues on Monday by unknown gunmen in Garissa town.
During the military siege of the town, residents were allegedly beaten and properties set ablaze.
Uneasy calm was restored in the afternoon but businesses remained closed and streets deserted.
Residents claimed they saw the security officers setting alight some of the properties that were destroyed.
For the second day running, tension engulfed Garissa as sporadic gunfire could be heard in the town. Businesses were closed as owners counted their losses.
On Monday soldiers locked down the town and barred anyone from entering or exiting it.
By the time they left the streets at 6pm, plumes of smoke were rising from various premises.
Residents claimed the military entered homes and dragged people outside while beating them up.
“I was asked to swim in a puddle that had formed during the previous night’s rains”, Ahmed Abdullahi said.
“They kicked and hit me with gun bats all along accusing me of harbouring the Al Shabaab killers,” he said, adding that the soldiers were shooting in the air and aiming guns at residents.
Garissa Provincial General Hospital Medical Superintendent Musa Mohamed said that more than 40 people were admitted at the hospital five of them with bullet wounds.
Defence Minister Haji told reporters the incident would be investigated.
Hajji said he did not order the security operation that led to the destruction of properties.
“I have ordered investigations that will lead to disciplinary action against the perpetrators of the heinous acts,” Haji said.
He appealed to residents to help identify the al-Shabaab militants behind terror attacks in the district.
The properties that have been burning since Monday afternoon were still smouldering Tuesday evening.
Garissa County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim called for calm and asked residents not to lose focus against the Al Shabaab militants out to cause chaos in the country.
He said criminals wanted to create animosity and the residents should not fall into their schemes.
“The residents should not allow the terror attacks to cause a rift between them and security personnel,” said Maalim.
He added that security officials felt threatened after losing six colleagues and needed the cooperation of the public to end the problem of Al Shabaab in the town.