Kenya: Parents Agonise As Their Children Join Al-Shabaab

Whenever a young person goes missing in Coast region, it is almost always a sign that they have joined al-Shabaab.

For years, Ms Mwanasha Omar thought she had done an excellent job raising her three sons, who could rise above poverty and do the family proud.

Salim, Ali and Shukran seemed to be growing into fine men who would go on to make their family and community shine.

Today, Ms Omar is among hundreds of Coastal residents still not sure how their children got recruited into the terror group.

They have to live with the fact that their children are likely to kill or injure innocent people in the name of al-Shabaab.

Her children are among hundreds of young people lured into the group that puts Kenyan security agencies on the edge during festive seasons.

Ms Omar does little to hide the pain she has endured since her sons joined the terrorist organisation.

When Ms Omar welcomes the Nation team to her makuti home in Pengo village, Kwale county, she is visibly lost in thought.

“I have never understood where and how things started going bad. They were recruited into the group by some men who came to this village. We later understood that they came from Somalia,” Ms Omar said.

“At one time, Ali said he was going to Mombasa for further studies. We did not see him for more than a year.”

Another 10 young men and women from Mwaluphamba have also gone disappeared, believed to have joined al-Shabaab.

False promises of being liberated from poverty and social injustice are some of the reasons given by al-Shabaab to the young people to join its ranks.

Other Kwale villages where youths have joined the organisation are Mlungunipa, Mwamanga, Mbuwani, Kigoti, Shamu and Tiribe.

Majengo, Likoni and Kisauni in Mombasa county are among the areas al-Shabaab has a field day recruiting agents of death and terror.

Parts of Tana River county, including Bura and Tana Delta, have also lost many young men and women to the terrorist organisation. An estimated 10 young men and women from the region join al-Shabaab every year.

Violent extremism

Likoni MP Mishi Mboko decried radicalisation and violent extremism in her constituency yesterday. She urged government administrators and security agents to address the matter promptly.

“If your child joins al-Shabaab, just know that you no longer have a child. You cannot survive after being recruited by a terrorist group. The child will be killed by al-Shabaab or the government,” Ms Mboko said.

She advised locals to be close to their children to help detect if they have been radicalised.

“Go to their rooms. Being boys should not stop a parent from entering their rooms. Let us play our roles as parents responsibly. We need to know the kind of children we’re bringing up,” the Likoni MP added.

Some of those recruited by al-Shabaab have shot up the list of most wanted terrorism suspects released police.

The most wanted list seen by the Nation features at least 15 young people from the Coast.

They include Issa Abdallah, Abdallah Siraj Marumu, Suleiman Mohammed, Hussein Said, Abdulkadir Abubakar, Juma Waziri, Salim Mohammed and Mahir Khalid.

Others are Hamisi Swaleh Abdallah, Juma Mwengo, Muumin Abdallah Muumin, Salim Mohammed Rashid, Mohammed Mwatsumiro, Salim Fariz and Ramadhan Kufungwa.

Some suspects have been killed while others, including Kufungwa, have become high ranking officials in Jaysh Ayman – an al-Shabaab wing operating in Kenya.

Not many locals feel Ms Abdu’s pain.

The local, who only gave one name, watched four of her children – Osama, Abulsatar, Salim and Saadia – got recruited by the terrorists organisation whose origin is Somalia.

Osama was killed in Somalia during an operation by security agencies targeting insurgents in the Horn of Africa.

Her daughter Saadia was married by a Shabaab militant. She followed him to the terrorist organisation.

Salim is rotting away at Shimo La Tewa Maximum Security Prison after being arrested and convicted for insurgency. He is lucky not to have been killed.

Salim, alias survivor, was an ardent follower of Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo who was felled by gunmen in August 2012.

Many young men and women were recruited into al-Shabaab after being radicalised by Sheik Rogo.

Abulsatar has been missing for months.

Nobody knows his whereabouts, an indication that the woman may have lost yet another child to the group.

According to a report by Mr Ngala Chome “Eastern Africa’s Regional Extremist Threat: Origins, Nature and Policy Options”, Sheikh Rogo used a group known as al-Hijra to carry out his recruitment.

Threat of radicalisation

“Before al-Hijra could conduct a spectacular, complex attack in Kenya, several of the group’s associates, including Sheikh Aboud Rogo and Abubakar Sharif (Makaburi), were assassinated,” notes the scholar.

The research paper published by the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies shows Sheikh Rogo’s radical sermons saw him spread his wings from Kenya to Tanzania and finally, Mozambique.

Meanwhile, a report by President Uhuru Kenyatta sent to Parliament in November last year says the threat of radicalisation and recruitment of youth by terrorist groups is a major concern in some parts of the country including Nairobi, Mombasa and Lamu.

The report said some returnees, who fled ill-treatment by their counterparts at operation bases in Somali were hiding in the south Coast, especially Kwale.

“Al-Shabaab operatives, radicalisers and recruiters mainly targeted vulnerable youths in learning institutions, mosques and madrassas as a soft pool and thereafter facilitating their travel to Somalia to join other militants in their training,” reads the report.

Kwale county has become the focus of police.

Several suspected Al-Shabaab recruiters have been shot dead in Kwale.

Multiple security sources place a man identified only as Musa as one of the key Shabaab recruiters in Kwale.

According to the sources, Musa has recruited several young people from Bongwe village.

Musa is known to security agencies, our police sources said.

Coast regional police commander Gabriel Musau said in a recent interview that police are part of a multi-agency team tracking down recruiters in Kwale county.

He added that the coastal town will soon be stabilised “like we did with Mombasa”.

Additional reporting by Winnie Atieno


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