True Patriotism: The Logistics Industry and Somalis in Kenya

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May 6, 2014

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As Kenyans, we stand in solidarity, condemning the attacks on Kenyan citizens by radical extremists believed to be linked to the Al Shabaab militia group. The need to band together as a people in the face of recent tragedies and support one another is admirable and cause for applause, up until it begins to mean the exclusion of other Kenyans, marginalized for their ethnicity. In uniting as a people, a worrying trend of marginalizing, and in the worst case, vilifying our Somali brothers and sisters has begun to appear, to the detriment of the country as a whole, logistics industry included.

The blanket profiling of individuals of Somali descent has in the recent past culminated in security sweeps across residential areas populated predominantly by Somalis, impeding the operation of businesses. Sweeps have occurred, aimed at identifying illegal immigrants, but unfortunately resulting in even Kenyan Somalis and Somalis with legal documentation to be in Kenya rounded up for screening at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani. Due to these arrests and questioning, Somalis are understandably inclined to decrease the chances of being harassed, leading to businesses being closed earlier than usual or not opened at all, hampering economic activities vital for our economy, including the logistics industry.

Those unfortunate enough to be netted in these security sweeps, legal citizenship or residency notwithstanding, experience a further disruption in business activities. Time taken up ascertaining their status as Kenyans or legal refugees could have been invested in work beneficial to the profit motive of our economy, and in more direct cases, those operating in the logistics industry are hindered from performing vital processes to keep the supply chain management sector in good health.

The current mistrust of Somalis fostered by the ethnic profiling rampant in the country has created a schism based on xenophobia that is rapidly widening. This sad, unfortunate state of affairs means that interaction between Somalis and non-Somalis are becoming increasingly strained and limited, creating little opportunity for business connections. The separation that is based on ignorance and blaming an entire community for the actions of unseen extremists manifests in two key ways, both detrimental to the logistics industry.

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First, by Somali-owned businesses being boycotted by a small, particularly bigoted section of the population. This means reliable suppliers and service providers who have actively and profitably participated in the Kenyan economy, logistics industry included, being denied a seat at the table based on their ethnicity. Such an ill-informed move can only mean a hunt for alternative links in the supply chain management chain which wastes time and is likely less than optimum as previous suppliers and businesses were picked based on cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Second, Somali patrons are being denied access to goods and services which they are more than ready to pay market price for, as has been the norm. This is often more extreme on a smaller scale, such as denial of access to restaurants and other entertainment areas. The logistics industry, being composed of humans prone to irrationality just like everyone else, is likely to see this deplorable change in business partners, with Somali entrepreneurs lacking the means to carry out their business functions such as freighting shipping and so on due to close-minded rhetoric likely to develop should current animosities go unchecked.

As we mourn those we have lost and comfort those that remain, the tension in the country, incubated by unjust prejudices against innocent Somalis, is an issue we must address. Only by coming together as a nation undivided along ethnic lines can we hope to identify those that would harm us, heal as a nation and begin to move on to better things, away from the shadow that these attackers would have us reside in. Let your patriotism be inclusive of all our Kenyan brothers and sisters, Somali or otherwise as we navigate our way through these dark times, for the sake of our logistics industry, the economy and the nation as a whole. Have an unbiased week, won’t you?


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