COST OF MISTRUST

Muhuri, police clash over success of war on terror

The lobby group's accounts were frozen in April 2015 on suspicion of funding terrorist activities

In Summary
  • More youths are being lured into al Shabaab because of the negative methods used by the security agents.
  • But Coast regional DCI boss Washington Njiru said Kenya is winning the war on terror.
Rukiyyah Abdu talks to Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma outside the Muhuri clinic in Mombasa on Wednesday
PRAYING FOR SON'S SAFE RETURN: Rukiyyah Abdu talks to Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma outside the Muhuri clinic in Mombasa on Wednesday
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Mistrust between security agencies and civil society is frustrating the war on terror, a human rights organisation has said.

Muslims for Human Rights said the methods adopted by Kenyan security agencies in dealing with terror-related cases instill anger, bitterness and an ‘us-against-them’ attitude in the youth.

Extremist elements then prey on these emotions, using them to their advantage by misrepresenting the Quran and radicalising the young people.

 

The result is a growing number of youth willing to join the Somali-based al Shabaab militants.

Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma on Wednesday said more youths are being lured into al Shabaab because of the negative methods used by the security agents to fight terrorism.

“For us to win this war, we must work together in harmony,” Auma said.

However, Coast regional DCI boss Washington Njiru said Kenya is winning the war on terror.

He said the war can only be won by joint efforts. “If there are no joint efforts then why are we winning the war? Because I can confirm to you that we are winning the war,” Njiru said.

The DCI boss said they have adopted methods that invalidate extremist ideologies.

“It is not about using bullets; people are changing their views,” Njiru said on phone on Thursday.

 

However, Auma questioned the seeming victory, saying families would not be crying today.

“If we were winning the war, there would be no disappearances today. Families would not be crying for their loved ones,” he said.

Rukiyyah Abdu, a 60-year-old mother who has lost four children to the Somali-based militant group, cares little about whether the war is being won or not.

All she wants is the safe return of her 17-year-old, ninth born daughter Saadia and her last born Abdul Sattar Islam, who turns 18 in December. They are missing.

With the help of her step-brother, Saadia in 2016 ran off to Somalia and reportedly got married to an al Shabaab militant against the wishes of her parents.

She had a child with her militant husband before he was killed in combat.

Now she is in constant communication with her mother wanting her forgiveness so she can return home. “But she fears or her life,” Auma said.

Abdu said on October 19, Islam told her he was going to Mariakani to see the parents of his girlfriend.

“He told me he was going to marry her. I was against that marriage but he insisted he had to do it to show the world that he had changed,” Abdu said.

Islam was arrested in 2018 in Mandera by an Anti-Terror Police Unit officers as he prepared to cross into Somalia to join al Shabaab.

He still has a case pending in court and was every Monday reporting to the Coast police headquarters as ordered by authorities.

He has not been seen or heard from since.

“Calls to his phone go through but he does not pick up,” said his distressed mother Abdu.

Abdu’s fifth born, Salim Abdi, is in Shimo la Tewa prison on terror-related charges.

He escaped death in 2013 after the car he was travelling in was shot at by unknown assailants in Bamburi.

The other three occupants in the car, including extremist preacher Aboud Rogo, were killed.

Abdu’s tenth born son was killed in Somalia. The 60-year-old is now facing stigma from the community. There have been raids at her Tudor home.

Auma said there is another case in Malindi where a teenager was lured to Somalia where she was turned into an al Shabaab bride.

However, the Malindi case is successful after the teenager was successfully lured out of the militant group and is now under a rehabilitation programme by the Kenyan government.

“She is now back in the community and has reformed but she still faces stigma,” Auma said.

He said many Kenyan girls are being lured into Somalia after being brainwashed.

They are promised a heavenly life but when they get there, things on the ground are different.

The rapid response officer said the porous Kenyan border, coupled with corrupt officers, hinder the war because extremists bribe their way in and out of Somalia at will.

Mistrust, he said, is still a challenge despite many efforts to end it.

“The government does not trust us. That is why they have put laws that make it hard for us to work,” Auma said.

The National Counter-Terrorism Centre must vet any organisation that purports to deal with anti-terror-related programmes.

Muhuri is against that requirement and went to court to challenge the provision. The matter is still pending.

Auma believes the amnesty programme issued for Shabaab returnees has failed.

“To date, we don’t know whether it is still on or not. There is no accountability because they work in utmost secrecy,” he said.

He said stakeholders like Muhuri must be involved in such programmes because the community trusts them more than they trust the security agencies.

“We only see more disappearances,” the Muhuri official said.

Kenyan security agencies believe organisations like Muhuri are only out to attract donor funding through their programmes, a claim Auma denies.

“No. Our interest is our communities, not resources from donors. This perception brings unnecessary competition. The government doesn’t trust us and we don’t trust them,” he said.

In April 2015, Muhuri’s accounts were frozen after the organisation was blacklisted alongside 84 others on suspicion of funding terrorist activities.

This followed the April 2 Garissa University College terror attack that left 148 dead and 79 injured.

“Security agencies cannot work alone and be successful in these matters. We are the community and we are also the government. So we need to work together,” Auma said.

“If we want these youths to come back home, the government must change how they approach these issues. They must gain the trust of the community.”

Njiru said the security agencies are always willing to working with different stakeholders to ensure the country is safe.

He said security personnel depend on intelligence some of which is provided by the community to help them secure the country.

“It is simple logic. Without collaborative efforts we would not be winning this war,” he said.

Auma said similar efforts in European countries are successful because of the sound approach they have adopted.

“In most European countries, if you are a suspected al Shabaab militant, they arrest you but do not kill you. Your family is also not intimidated,” he said.

He noted that those who want out are easily helped and protected because their programmes run smoothly unlike in Kenya where those who want out make more enemies for themselves than friends.

 

Edited by Henry Makori