Somalia: Somali anger at Kenya cash transfer freezes

Residents of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Thursday condemned as “collective punishment” Kenya’s shutting down of money transfer services to the country over suspected links to the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab.

Kenya on Wednesday froze key transfer companies vital for impoverished Somalia, as part of a crackdown on alleged Al-Shabab supporters following the university massacre of almost 150 people by militants 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 some $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros) each year, dwarfing foreign aid.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday warned Al-Shabab 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 Al-Shabab 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 Al-Shabab — and now they say Nairobi’s decision is harming them.

“It is sad that the same people who are victims of Al-Shabab here, are also being punished because of Al-Shabab,” said Samira Hussein, a mother of five who works in Somalia, but whose husband and children are in Kenya.