Radicalization of Youth in Mombasa, Kenya – Quo Vadis?

By: Paul Adhoch – Trace Kenya*

The first cases of Kenyan youth radicalization, recruitment and trafficking for militia and Al-Shabaab fighting in Somalia was reported in 2006 by civil society organizations in Mombasa and Nairobi. Some places in Mombasa and Nairobi formed the foci of these activities. With time these radicalization activities took root in the country. At that time the government of Kenya took a dim view of the Civil Society Organizations reports and dismissed them as “mere propaganda and alarmist”. There were vehement denials across the country concerning such recruitments. Four years later, the government acknowledged the fact that youth were actually being recruited for terrorist activities generally; in Al-Shabaab and have also been convicted for partaking in the terrorist activities. A number of youth are now serving lengthy jail terms for being members of terrorist groups.

In October 2011, the government of Kenya sent the military (Kenya Defense Forces) to Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab and to support the international community on war on terror. Even then the government acknowledged that this was an uphill task with the assistant minister for internal security Mr. Orwa Ojode (RIP) claiming that the terror group had its tail in Somalia and its head in Eastleigh. A year later, Kismayu, an Al-Shabaab strongpoint was captured.
The military (KDF), is still in Somalia to-date with “no exit plan” according to the Cabinet Secretary on Defence Ms Rachel Omamo. The presence of the KDF in Somalia seemed to have increased local soft target terrorist activities in Kenya best witnessed in the Westgate Mall attack last year. There have been numerous soft target attacks including churches, restaurants, and public transport mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa, Garissa and Mandera cities. These are considered as revenge attacks as a result of KDF activities in Somalia. Other countries except Uganda with a similar military expedition in Somalia have not faced similar attacks. One may ask why the Al-Shabaab revenge attacks have been severe in Kenya? It is a fact too that Ethiopia has a large contingent of its defense forces in Somalia, yet they are not subject to same severity despite their proximity to Somalia.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that i. unlike her neighbours, Uganda, and Burundi except Ethiopia, Kenya has a large border with Somalia. ii. Kenyan and Somali citizens, have also intermarried and live mainly in the four cities in Kenya that have suffered the brunt of attacks. iii. There is a huge population of refugees. Urban refugees are resident mainly in Nairobi and Mombasa. iv. There are also indications that the terror group has its sympathizers in the country. v. Kenya is also seen as a strategic ally of the western countries hence attacking it sends a strong message globally.

In seeking to address the above concerns, the Kenya government has initiated a concerted effort to flush out illegal immigrants living in Mombasa and Nairobi. This effort was started in the early weeks of April 2014. The effort has elicited opposition by several citizens who see it as harassment of innocent citizens. The condemnation has been extended to the fact that house searches are undertaken without warrants and the fact that one ethnic group is being targeted. This has made the Kenyans of Somali origin to live in fear. On the other hand a number of citizens are supportive of these swoops – as a result of the recent terror activities. They also claim that criminals have also come to the limelight as a result of the swoops.

The government has also since March 2014 i. ordered the return of all Somali refugees from Daadab Camp – the largest of the camps, back to Somalia. This has equally met some resistance from some local and international humanitarian organizations who wish to have a structured and secure return for the refugees. ii. Some members of the Kenyan parliament have insisted that the camp be re-located into Somalia territory, from whence the refugees can find their way to their respective homes in Somalia.

While the above approaches may reach some success as far as dealing with external terrorists is concerned, dealing with home grown terrorism is more difficult. The philosophy of terror groups lies in promoting radical ways to address issues. These groups have also radicalized youth to violently eject Imams not buying into radical philosophies, destroy churches, actively and violently demonstrate against the state and display intolerance to “non-believers”. Terror activities have a potential of undermining the stability of Islam in the coastal region and Kenya in general. They also present a possible route to sectarian violence such as that witnessed in Nigeria through Boko Haram. Matters are not made any better by the fact that many youth in this category are of modest formal education.

Radicalism poisons young people who are later trafficked to be trained to undertake terrorist activities. Some leading Islamic scholars have called for re-education of the youthful terrorist returnees. They have also called for deepening of scholarship to Imams so as to counsel and guide the youth on the true meaning of the term “jihad”. In 2013, 160 Muslims scholars declared a fatwa (decree) on Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. They will congregate again later in 2014 to evaluate the progress of the decree. It would also be important for these leaders to think of different measures to dissolve radicalization and start a gradual process of rehabilitating, reintegrating and educating those finding themselves in terror acts. They should also think of permanent preventative activities.
In the meantime, the government of Kenya must of necessity, ensure that population harmed by terror activities do not grow their own fundamentalists’ groups as a result of anger. Continuous prevention is a must. The police and all concerned should continue strengthening security at all times. It is important however that human rights are respected in all process. Secondly, there is need for proper reintegration and reabsorption of the former terrorist youth through trauma and psychological accompaniment be they in the prisons or elsewhere.

*The writer is the Director of Trace Kenya. Trace Kenya is a counter trafficking in persons NGO based in Mombasa, Kenya.


Tanzania: 42 Immigrants Suffocate in a Truck

Original Story Nation online 27th June 2012 here and  here

Forty-two immigrants were found dead in a truck in central Tanzania after suffocating, Deputy Interior Minister Pereira Silima said on Tuesday.

“They died of suffocation and had no food,” Silima said.

“There were more than 100 people in the truck,” a local administration official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“After he had learnt of the dead bodies, the driver abandoned the truck and ran away.”

The bodies were discovered in the truck in Dodoma province, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Dar es Salaam.

In December, 20 Somali immigrants were found dead in Tanzania.

Foreign ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga said at the time that an increasing number of Ethiopians and Somalis were crossing the country to make their way to South Africa, the continent’s top economy.

Tanzanian police Wednesday were questioning 74 migrants who survived suffocation in a truck where 42 fellow travellers perished, Deputy Interior Minister Pereira Silima said.

“Police and immigration officials are questioning the survivors to establish their identity including names and nationality,” Silima told AFP.

It was initially reported the migrants were from Malawi, but officials said that they were suspected of coming from the Horn of Africa region to the north, and were on their way southwards to Malawi.

“Preliminary reports have it that the immigrants were destined to Malawi,” Silima said. Police said the truck driver fled the vehicle after finding the dead bodies.

The bodies were discovered on Tuesday in the truck in Dodoma province, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam.

In December, 20 Somali migrants were found dead in Tanzania.

Foreign ministry spokesman Isaac Nantanga said at the time that an increasing number of Ethiopians and Somalis were crossing the country to make their way to South Africa, the continent’s richest country.

Poster: Counter Human Trafficking Syposium for FBOs and Grassroots in EA

Contact consolationeastafrica@gmail.com or 0736 935 387,  and 0720 812 638 or 0720 444 545

Kenya grapples with influx of immigrants

Nation By JOHN NJAGI jnjagi@ke.nationmedia.comPosted  Sunday, May 1 2011 at 20:36

For the past one year, security forces in Northern Kenya have grappled with illegal Ethiopian and Somali immigrants entering the country.

The Ethiopians, who are the majority, use the country as a transit route in search of greener pastures in places such as South Africa.

The security threat the country has been exposed to following the influx is entry of members of dreaded Oromo Liberation Front militia from Ethiopia.

Kenyan security forces have arrested over 200 in Moyale in the past one year.

However, the Somali who travel in fewer numbers and either use the Modogashe-Garbatula or the Garissa-Mwingi routes pose a more potent threat, particularly due to their link to the al-Shabaab terror group.

Eastern provincial police boss Marcus Ocholla said security officers are always on the lookout for the Somalis because of their link to terrorism.

“Unlike the Ethiopians who use the country as a transit route, the Somalis mean no good; they are a security threat,” he said.

Mr Ocholla said two Somalis were arrested last year with bomb-making materials on the Garissa-Mwingi route, which he described as their favourite when entering Nairobi.

The Kenya Government, according to sources has also spent a tidy sum repatriating suspects found by local courts to be in the country illegally.

However, a crackdown by the security forces has resulted in a lull in the movement of immigrants.

The immigrants use any available means from matatus, to trucks and tractors to make the arduous journey through bush and jungle to finally make it to Nairobi.

Kenyans, who are proving to be masterminds in the trade, arrange for their transportation by road to their destination.

As opposed to human trafficking, the immigrants are transported willingly in a cartel involving locals, hence the crime falls under people smuggling under international law.

Human trafficking, the other crime involving movement of humans is where individuals are forcibly sold for forced labour or sex.

Mr Ocholla said that since the beginning of the year, there have been fewer immigrants mostly from Ethiopia arrested on Kenyan roads.

He said over 100 illegal immigrants and four Kenyans who are accomplices in the trade have been arrested since the beginning of the year.

The promised land

“This year the numbers have been lower probably due to the many arrests that have been made,” he said.

Ethiopians who successfully arrive in South Africa to find jobs in hotels as waiters, entice their friends and kin back home to try their luck and make the trip to “the promised land”.

However, if many of them are arrested and deported to their country, it acts as a deterrent and fewer jobless youth would be willing to take the risk.

To make the trip, the immigrants, mostly from poor backgrounds often sell family property to raise money for transport and upkeep.

Early this year, a group of 10 immigrants were arrested at an accident scene after a truck ferrying onions from Mandera overturned on the Garissa-Nairobi highway near Mwingi, only for the police to discover they were hidden underneath the sacks.

Late last year, more than 20 Ethiopian youths were involved in an accident at Timau, having squeezed into a 14-seater matatu from Isiolo to Nairobi.

In Nyeri, eight illegal immigrants were recently arrested in Makuyu and Karatina.

Rwanda to deport 64 trafficked Bangladeshis


KIGALI, December 31, 2010

Rwandan authorities are working with counterparts in Dhaka to deport 64 Bangladeshi victims of human trafficking, after the arrest in Kigali of their suspected trafficker, police said Friday.

Abdul Sattar Miah was arrested on Monday night in a hotel in the capital, in possession of the passports of his presumed victims, police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told AFP.

“Our immigration services are working with their counterparts in Bangladesh so that the victims can be sent back home,” Kayiranga said.

Miah, also from Bangladesh, initially claimed the men, who arrived in Rwanda on Ethiopian Airlines via Dubai and Addis Ababa, were his relatives.

Miah arrived in Rwanda in October saying he wanted to set up a tourism company. He rented two houses in the capital, which he subsequently used to house his victims and which police raided after a tip-off.

Kayiranga said police were investigating the theory that the victims were being trafficked to Mozambique to work on farms set up there by white Zimbabwean farmers.

He said the men, aged approximately between 20 and 50, had paid for their own air tickets as far as Kigali and had also paid Miah between 1,500 and 1,700 dollars (1,100 and 1,300 euros) as a “facilitation fee” in exchange for the promise of “well-paying jobs”.

Miah, who has been in police custody since his arrest, was arrested in Mozambique in 2006 for smuggling a group of Bangladeshis into that country via Madagascar, the spokesman said.

Six foreign beggars charged for illegal stay


Six Tanzanians arrested in Embu for being in Kenya illegally will be repatriated back to their country immediately, a court has ruled.

The six had been begging in the town pretending to be disabled as well as posing as sick to receive alms from residents.

Days after a similar scam involving foreigners was exposed in Nairobi, the racket seems to have moved to smaller towns.

According to the police, the culprits were being dropped in the town’s Central Business District in the morning by a saloon vehicle which picked them in the evening.

On the day of the arrest, they were picked from the lodge counting the day’s earnings which amounted to Sh8,500.

Helen Mangu Kiruru, Eliza Sumbuku, Josphine Majula, Marita Kasambi, Doris Basede and Patrol Mangu pleaded guilty for being in the country illegally and contravening the immigration act before resident magistrate Eunice Nyutu .

The magistrate ordered that the five women and one man be repatriated to their country within the shortest time possible after treating them as first offenders.

The foreigners said that they had come into the country with dreams of making a break after hearing of better opportunities here.

“My parents informed me that there are better opportunities in Kenya and advised me to accompany my aunt (Josphine Majula) for a fresh break in life,” said Patrol Mangu.

The aliens were arrested in a lodging in Embu after the public alerted the police who trailed the suspects as they were being dropped in the morning and picked in the evening.

According to the Embu west DC Maalim Mohamed, the public was easily wooed after seeing bandages painted in red and urinary catheters attached to the culprits bodies.

“They told us that they had heard that Kenyans have pity at the disadvantaged members of the society and that they had come to try their luck,” said the DC adding that they were contravening the spirit of the East Africa Community which allowed for free movement of the residents of member states across the region from July.

The six were from Brieda district in Tanzania.

A worker at the lodge told the Nation that the culprits used to purchase beer from the counter and take it to their rooms.