Mogadishu – Residents of Somalia’s capital on Thursday condemned as “collective punishment” Kenya’s shutting down of money transfer services over suspected links to the al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab.
Kenya on Wednesday froze key transfer companies vital for impoverished Somalia, as part of a crackdown on alleged Shabaab supporters following the university massacre of almost 150 people by the Islamists last week.
“It is a bad decision that collectively punishes the Somali people,” said Abdisalim Mohamed, a resident in Mogadishu.
“It is already affecting me directly, because I cannot get money and help from my daughter, who has a business in Kenya.”
With no formal banking system in the impoverished country, diaspora Somalis use money transfer services to send cash back home to support their families, sending at least $1.3bn each year, dwarfing foreign aid.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday warned Shabaab fighters his government would respond to the killing of 148 people at the university in Garissa in the “severest way” possible, with warplanes on Monday attacking Islamist bases in southern Somalia.
But Kenyatta also warned that the masterminds behind last Thursday’s attack were inside Kenya, not Somalia.
Somalis, like Kenyans, are struggling to combat the Shabaab – and now they say Nairobi’s decision is harming them.
Millions in poverty
“It is sad that the same people who are victims of al-Shabaab here, are also being punished because of Shabaab,” said Samira Hussein, a mother of five who works inside Somalia, but whose husband and children are in Kenya.
Kenya’s police on Wednesday issued a list of 85 people and businesses with suspected links to the Shabaab, with the top name alleged Islamist commander Mohamed Mohamud, a Kenyan said to be the mastermind behind the university massacre in Garissa.
But the list also included money transfer companies, including Dahabshiil, one of the most important transfer companies across the wider Horn of Africa region.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud this week said “remittances are a critical lifeline to millions in poverty”.
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