On December 21, headlines of reputable publications worldwide brought to the fore an unusual view of a rare act in the fight against terrorism in Kenya.
The BBC headlined their story, Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack while USA Today headlined it; Muslims shield Christian passengers in attack on Kenyan bus.
Al Jazeera aptly put it thus: Muslims in Kenya offer a Christmas present to the world.
And this was rightly so as the Muslims refused to be separated from their colleagues who would have been killed as has been done before in Mandera by the outlawed Al Shabaab terrorists. The act was heroic.
Despite this being a major blow to terror, local publications gave the story a small, almost unnoticeable headline. But had it been more gruesome, papers would have – in their usual style – published the doomsday news.
The selfless act by the travelers who shielded the non-Muslims was hailed as great and this reignited a sense of nationhood in many Kenyans-albeit briefly.
Just a few days after this act, Mandera is the trending on social media no less due to terrorism. But this is on a different scale.
This time round, there is condemnation for alleged abuse of power by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) officers in the area following the killing of two people and the injuring of three others.
Allegedly, KDF soldiers in Mandera Town on Monday shot the two after their vehicle blocked the oncoming military car.
Mandera County Commissioner Fredrick Shisia who confirmed the incident said the military shot at the occupants after allegedly blocking their way at a road junction within the town.
“Preliminary investigations show the civilian vehicle blocked the military van and KDF sensed danger, hence opening fire. Three people were injured, including a lady who was hit by stray bullets,”
Shisia said of the 10.45am incident.
The shooting happened at the junction of Hills View Hotel and ‘Soko Miraa’ which has a relatively high flow of traffic.
Following this shooting, Twitter was abuzz on Tuesday with the topic #ManderaHeroesBetrayed where those who weighed in said the victims of the shooting were not terrorists but locals who were well known.
#ManderaHeroesBetrayed where do you expect to get heroes of tomorrow if you are killing those who could be the heroes of tomorrow
— Noor Hassan Munene (@Noor_016) December 29, 2015
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by KDF but the silence over that by citizens & our Leaders. #ManderaHeroesBetrayed
— James Kung’u (@SlimJames) December 29, 2015
That Is A Set Back In The Fight Against Terrorism, But Wait, Who Is A Terrorist? Me,. Why? My Name Is Abdishukri. Sad #ManderaHeroesBetrayed
— ProudSomaliKenyan (@AbdishukriOsman) December 29, 2015
How were the #ManderaHeroesBetrayed? The government is fully paying their hospital and other bills.
— Ahmed Mohamed™ (@asmali77) December 29, 2015
Not only did #Mandera vote Jubilee overwhelmingly, but produced heroes who “defeated” terror, only to be neglected #ManderaHeroesBetrayed.
— Ayub Sh Abdikadir (@AyubAbdikadir) December 29, 2015
The fight against terror can’t be won when the benefit of doubt is a luxury for the locals #ManderaHeroesBetrayed
— Sadam Maalim (@sadamgooner) December 29, 2015
What happened to laws of this country? 5 innocent people were killed without any crime. #ManderaHeroesBetrayed pic.twitter.com/5fC0pt9R4Q
— Alibash (@Earlybaesh_Moha) December 29, 2015
Others defended the reaction by the soldiers:
#ManderaHeroesBetrayed but I cant blame KDF for being jumpy, they are scared to death. They dont kmo who is who, just casualties in war
— Jeff Starbwoy (@JeffStarbwoy) December 29, 2015
In the past, military officers have been killed in the town by assailants using taxi cabs.
However, KDF has been accused of being complicit in the area due to thriving illegal business.
I think KDF wants the Alshabab thing to continue for them to continue making illegal business.The locals are spoiling #ManderaHeroesBetrayed
— Ibrahim Ahmed (@Ibrahimjohnny) December 29, 2015
But with all said and done, when do nationhood and defense of human rights unite?According to Shisia, KDF officers shot at the car after hearing the sound of an explosion coming from the vehicle but area Governor Ali Roba who visited the scene of the shooting disputed the security report.
Roba said there were no obvious signs of an explosion on the vehicle.
Following the incident, residents protested the shooting which came as a major security operation was mounted in the county on Monday following terror attacks that left two police officers dead at Lafey on Sunday.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett has already issued an alert over the risk of fresh attacks by Al Shabaab insurgents who have split into rival factions inside Kenya, with some shifting allegiance from Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.