Kenyan airport official threatened Toronto man with jail. After handing over $50, he boarded flight

TORONTO, August 2 2009 (Somalilandpress) — Seeing a woman desperately stranded in Kenya calls to mind other horror stories for Toronto Somali-born travellers.

“Many people have a very bad problem there,” says Hussein Adani, a former Somali track star and owner of New Bilan restaurant on Dundas St. E.

Adani was returning from a two-month visit to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in 2000 when airport passport police stopped him.

It was the sort of holdup that has caused trouble for Toronto single mother Suaad Hagi Mohamud, so desperate after two months of trying to prove she is the woman in her four-year-old passport photo, that she went to court to have Canadian consular officials take her DNA this week.

“They have two signs,” Adani said yesterday of the departure terminal at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. “One says ‘Africans,’ the other says ‘Europeans and North Americans,’ ” he recalled. “I am Canadian. I lined up at the second sign.”

When airport police asked why he was in the wrong line, Adani showed his Canadian passport and a visitor’s visa issued by the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa.

“They told me, ‘You will have a problem,’ ” he said. “They told me, ‘We’ll put you in jail, you will have to buy a new ticket tomorrow and your luggage will be gone.’
[ad#Google Adsense (336×280)]

“I put $50 in my passport and gave it to the officer,” Adani said. “When they opened it and saw the money, they said, `Thank you.'”

At Nairobi airport, every Somali-born Torontonian knows to expect to pay a bribe, said outreach worker Maryan Ali at North York Community House.

“They take only American money,” she said of the airport police. “They look at the date and ask for the newest, 2000 and up. It is well known.”

Such incidents are on the rise, said Mahad Yousuf, director of Midaynta Community Services. “People are travelling back and forth and asking us for help.”

Calls to the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa went unreturned yesterday. In 2008, Transparency International said the chance of being asked for a bribe when dealing with Kenyan police was 93 per cent.

To make matters worse, relations between native Kenyans and ethnic Somalis remain tense. Since 1991, Somali refugees have been pouring over Kenya’s northern border by the hundreds of thousands and an Islamist insurgency in Somalia threatens the entire region.

As a result, ethnic Somalis in Kenya are treated with suspicion even at the Canadian High Commission, community leaders say.

“The inadequate and sometimes casual attitude of the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi” exacerbates Kenya’s “well documented history of institutional corruption,” said Ebyan Farah, spokesperson for the Ottawa-based Canadian Somali Congress.

For Mohamud, callous treatment has extended to Ottawa’s highest levels.

After she showed a dozen Canadian ID cards, spent weeks persuading Canadian consular officials to take her fingerprints and won a federal court action to have them take her DNA, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said she wasn’t doing enough. “The individual has to be straightforward, has to let us know whether or not she is a Canadian citizen,” Cannon told media after the federal court decision.

Yesterday, a spokesperson said Cannon had nothing to add.

Mohamud’s DNA swabs are to arrive in a Vancouver lab on Tuesday to be matched with those from her ex-husband and son.

By John Goddard
Staff Reporter

Source: The Star