Nairobi, July 21, 2014 – Muslim leaders have pressed the Government to lift the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in Lamu County. The leaders have argued that the timing will affect Muslims observing the holy month of Ramadhan.
Yesterday, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) said the hours between 6.30pm and 6.30am, when the curfew is effective, are critical for believers during Ramadhan.
At the same time, the order by Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo highlighted divisions in the Government after National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale termed it a violation of religious liberty and even encouraged Muslims to defy it. Duale took to Twitter to urge Muslims in Lamu to defy the curfew, which he described as unconstitutional and an affront to religious liberty.
“Muslims in Lamu County must go to the mosques for the last 10 days for Ramadhan prayers despite the curfew. Our religion supersedes curfew order. Maintaining security in Lamu County is paramount but denying Muslim faithful their religious obligation in this holy month is unacceptable,” Duale tweeted.
Duale posted two tweets soon after Kimaiyo announced the curfew following the Friday night attack on a Lamu-bound bus in which seven were killed, including four police officers.
When reached for comment by The Standard, Duale said while he appreciates the importance of security, it should not be used to infringe on the constitutional rights, especially on religion.
“This week is one of the most important in the Holy month of Ramadhan where Muslims all over the world take time to devote, pray and repent. We have told the IG to partially lift the curfew and only enforce it in the highways but not towns where religious activities are going on,” he said. Duale added: “Muslims should meanwhile defy the order and continue with whole-night prayers since the curfew is a breach of the Constitution.”
Supkem Secretary General Adan Wachu called for the lifting of the curfew. “He (Kimaiyo) needs to put in abeyance the curfew until end of the Ramadhan to enable Muslims in the region operate freely because it affects and impedes their rights and liberties,” said Wachu.
Wachu said inasmuch as the Government acted in good faith, many factors were not put into considerations before announcing the curfew.
But Kimaiyo insisted the curfew, which was to start last evening, will be enforced and warned against violation. “We have rolled out our plans for now and intend to sustain it for the sake of the locals’ security,” said Kimaiyo.
Mr Kimaiyo said he issued the curfew orders in accordance with Section 8 (1) of the Public Order Act.
Kimaiyo said all residents of Lamu County should remain indoors during the curfew period unless one has a written permit from the County Commander of Police.
Wachu argued that during the fasting period, Muslims regard the hours between 6.30pm and 6.30am as critical.
Speaking on phone, Wachu added police should ensure the residents’ operations are not affected and rather than ban movement, police should screen people going from their homes to the mosques and back.
“Police can demand identification documents to allow those going to mosques proceed,” he said.
Coast Supkem leader Sheikh Muhdhar Khitamy pleaded with the Government to allow Muslims attend night prayers in urban centres which have not experienced attacks. “I urge security agencies to spare Muslims time to pray at night in places that are not affected by insecurity,” Khitamy said.
Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid said the imposition of the curfew is unconstitutional.
“The curfew is unconstitutional as it violates the freedom of worship. Government’s failure to provide security should not lead to punishing wananchi who have nothing to do with the inefficiency of security authorities and how they conduct their businesses,” Khalid said. He urged that the curfew be lifted forthwith.
The curfew orders come in the wake of increased attacks in the area in which up to 100 people have been killed and thousands displaced by gunmen.