News / Africa

Kenya Extends Amnesty to al-Shabab

Members of Somalia's al- Shabab militant group patrol on foot on the outskirts of Mogadishu, March 5, 2012.
Members of Somalia's al- Shabab militant group patrol on foot on the outskirts of Mogadishu, March 5, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
— Kenyan officials say they are offering amnesty to Kenyans who joined the Somali militant group al-Shabab and are willing to denounce violence.  This offer comes as Somalia’s new president calls on foreign militants to leave his country. 

Foreign jihadists

For years, foreign jihadists have fought alongside local Somali militants to topple the internationally recognized government in Somalia.

A United Nations report released last year put the number of Kenyan youths recruited by al-Shabab to fight in Somalia at as many as 500.

The newly-elected Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has categorized al-Shabab into two factions: local and foreign militants.

He acknowledged Somali youths joined al-Shabab for economic reasons, revenge missions and for religious devotion but said they are still citizens of his land and that they should work for the benefit of the country.

He also said his government has nothing to do with other fighters who are not Somalis.  He says the only solution is for them to leave.

Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, a Somalia analyst with Southlink consultants in Nairobi, says the local Somali factions are showing more willingness to negotiate with the new government than foreign fighters.

“You know, if you look at the structure of al-Shabab, there are some fighters who are saying 'Let’s negotiate with the government since now we are losing control of every corner of the country.   Let's negotiate so that we can have a stake in the next government.'  That’s why there is a rift within al-Shabab,” he said.

Radical youth

Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna says some Kenyan youths in Somalia have defected from al-Shabab, though not many. 

"There is information some members of al-Shabab are nationals of Kenya and other countries in the region," he says.  "And amnesty has been extended to them to be able for those who want to be integrated into the society.  But as [of] now few of them have been able to respond to the amnesty but most of them are still with al-Shabab.”

Oguna says the Kenyan government has set up programs to help those youth transition back into normal life.

Some of these defectors have been put into rehabilitation centers, while some are also helping the government in providing useful information about al-Shabab.

Sheikh Juma Ngao, the chairman of Kenya's Muslim National Advisory Council, says some of the youths were radicalized by Muslim clerics, and says those clerics should be kept away from former al-Shabab fighters.

“These youth were brainwashed through wrong Islamic ideologies which made them want to cross over borders to Somalia and fight, and kill their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters in the name of Islam," he says.  "And therefore we need Muslim scholars with correct Islamic ideologies that shall transform the youth and make them return to their normal position as good Muslim youths.”

Community organizations like the Muslim Youth Center in Kenya have been used to spur development but they have also been used in the past to recruit jihadists for al-Shabab and send them to Somalia for training.

The government has clamped down on these recruitment centers, but the activity has continued in secret.

Ngao notes it won’t be easy for some of the youths to come back because defection can be dangerous. 

“If you are known that you want to run away from al-Shabab militia group, they normally kill you so it’s not easy," he says.  "Maybe the Kenyan government and the new Somali government under the new president, they come up with new strategy that shall create a way for the youth to escape the trap of al-Shabab.”

Escape or surrender might be something the government would like to see as African Union troops and Somali forces advance on al-Shabab's last stronghold, the Somali port city of Kismayo.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid