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.
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

In US, Still No Decision in Racially-charged Case

Missouri town, many Americans on edge over whether jurors will indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid