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Opinion

Violet Kemunto: The Changing Face Of Terror And Why Now Al Shabaab Targets The Young And Educated Men And Women For Recruitment In Kenya

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Violet Kemunto

How does a country deal with Al-Shabaab returnees, home grown terrorism and an increasing attractiveness of young people who don’t come from disadvantaged backgrounds to extremism? These are the challenges Tuesday’s attack at dusitD2 hotel complex has presented Kenya’s security apparatus.The revelation that those who executed the attack and part of the planning are locals has sent shock waves across the country on why a bunch of Kenyans would plan the slaughter of their fellow countrymen on orders from across the border.An affidavit filed in court by the Anti-Terror Police Unit seeking detention of five people showed that Ali Salim Gichunge and Violet Kemunto, believed to have played a key role in planning the attack, were being faclilitated from Somalia.

“A quick perusal of their phone numbers shows they were in constant communication with several contacts in Somalia,” said the affidavit filed by Inspector Monica Githaiga.Although local terror cells have been used on several occasions to carry out attacks, Tuesday’s was the first of such a grand scale to be planned and executed by Kenyans. This shows a change in strategy by Al-Shabaab which has previously sent Somali nationals from their ranks to carry out a big hit.

The Westgate and Garrisa University attacks, which stand out as being on almost a similar scale in terms of strategy and execution, were led by fighters who had crossed the border from Somalia. Additionally, the two biggest names associated with the attack, Gichunge and Kemunto, have broken the stereotypic view and the long standing association of ethnic Somalis to terrorism by Kenyans. While distancing themselves from terrorists, residents of Eastleigh who closed their shops for an hour on Friday to honour those who died at dusitD2, said Somalis and Muslims are peaceful and do not advocate such killings.“The community is here to say no to terrorism, no to extremism and no to violence.

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Al-Shabaab do not enjoy any support from this community. They do not represent or talk on our behalf,” said Kamkunji MP Yusuf Hassan.“We are not Al Shabaab, neither do they speak for us. We do not agree with their ideology of killing innocent people. Eastleigh is not a hub for terrorists. We will find them and flush them out,” vowed Yusuf.

Backfiring moves

When Kenya deployed its forces into Somalia and offered to train some of the distressed country’s soldiers, it had no idea that the move would set it on a collision course with an enemy it had set out to annihilate. As the Somali soldiers were getting their training at Archer’s Post, some 70 kilometres from Isiolo Town and at Manyani in Taita Taveta, another training of sorts was going on. Young Kenyan men and women were being lured by the same enemy the government was trying to keep off.

And this time, it was different. The enemy switched it up a bit and went to the very core of society, convincing and recruiting from the very heart of the communities. One of these men and women was Gichunge, whose face his family says, had been away from them for years, only to resurface on CCTV footage as one of the attackers in the bloody Riverside attack that led to the death of dozens.At the time, Isiolo was one of Al-Shabaab’s fertile recruiting grounds.

Hundreds of youth, according to intelligence sources, had been recruited from here. Those recruited include high school students. Some youth, including university students, had also been reported to have disappeared. And this was not the only change in strategy. Although the psychology of the recruit remained the same, their sociology too changed. From recruiting the downtrodden and poorly educated, recruiters trained their eyes on well-educated children from well off families.

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The situation is similar in Marsabit, where the now famous ‘Mount Marsabit Warriors’ were lured into Somalia by a teacher who graduated from Garissa University. To date, the whereabouts of the five boys and three girls as well as their female teacher remain unknown. Isiolo County Directorate of Criminal Investigation Raphael Wawire said Gichunge hails from Isiolo, and is one of the many youths lured away by Al-Shabaab.

Former Isiolo County Commissioner George Natembeya, who is now in the same capacity in Narok, had in 2016 said that scores of youth had been recruited into the terror group, but some had come back.Yussuf Dogo of Friends of Nomads International (Foni), an NGO that works in northern Kenya counties, said Al-Shabaab had devised “known ways” (recruiting non-Somalis and Coastal) to disguise its campaign to carry out terror attacks.

The reality that Al-Shabaab can now use Kenyans to carry out such large scale attacks and that terrorism can no longer be related to a certain community or lack of economic opportunities is what experts say is the changing face of terror. Kemunto, a journalism graduate from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), has continued an emerging pattern of educated individuals who are increasingly joining terror groups.

A study, Violent extremism in Kenya: Why women are a priority, conducted by the Institute for Security Studies in Africa last year said that least 58 students have abandoned universities to join terrorist groups in Somalia, Libya and Syria in the last three years.One of the masterminds of the Garrissa University massacre in 2015, Abdirahim Mohamed, was studying to be a lawyer at the University of Nairobi. On February 2016, police arrestedHassanaen Ahmed, a University of Nairobi biochemistry student, as he was reportedly leaving the country to travel to Libya to join the Islamic State group.

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Later in May that year, Gloria Kavaya, a microbiology student at Kenyatta University, was also arrested after she disappeared from school, changed her name and embarked on what police said were plans to travel to Syria.“The stand out fact from this week’s attack is that the Al-Shabaab has proven that it is still around and it is able to recruit beyond the ethnic Somali base,” says James Ndung’u, a security expert.

Returnees dilemma

“What should worry security stake holders is how fast Al Shabaab can evolve to new challenges like opting to use locals when it can no longer send fighters across the border due to strong counter terrorism measures by the Kenyan government,” he observes.Ndung’u says one factor making it easy for the Al-Shabaab to recruit from within Kenya is the inability by government to effectively integrate returnees, which means most of them do not completely cut links with the terror group.

This view is also shared by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) which says while the government has several programmes meant to support the returnees who wish to be reintegrated back to society, the reality is most of them fear getting arrested if they come out.“Returnee support for the programme has been limited by their fear and mistrust of the government and its security agencies. Returnees simply stay clear,” says ISS in a research paper published recently.

Article first appeared on Standard


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Opinion

Ethiopian Airlines Maintains Its Brand As The Top Airline In Africa And What Kenya Airways Must Learn

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The aviation industry globally has experienced the worst year start with the recent Ethiopian Airline crash flight 302, a Boeing 737 Max that killed all on board, the year 2017 was the safest with no crash at all which outlay the fact that with focus and determination above all avid safety measures control system the Industry can be made safer.

Ethiopian Airline (ET) is one of the safest airlines in Africa and the recent crash of its plane was one of the worst in the history of the Airline company owned by the Ethiopian Government. Initial reports from the crash investigations suggest that the accident may have been as a result of a software dysfunctionality that has resulted to Ethiopian airline grounding more than 30 planes of the said model and most countries in the world civil aviation authorities have grounded this model of airplane. Ethiopian Airline is best performing airline and only African government owned that has over years recorded an increase in profits, Most Governments owned airlines are loss-making entities that require government funding annually.

The company has regional subsidiaries like Eritrean Airline, Malawian Airline, etc and owns the Bole International Airport which was crowned as the best and busiest airport in African. Ethiopian Airline is the oldest in Africa; it operates 125 passengers and 44 cargo destinations across the world. It was Crowned Best Airlines in Africa Award, for the 7th Consecutive year. ET boasts of having many fleets of the airplane including the famous Boeing 747-200 and several Boeing 777.

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Tentatively our national carrier the Kenya Airways has been experiencing losses for quite some time, the Kenyan Government owns the majority stake in this company however regardless of the shortcoming KQ is ranked 5th best airline in Africa, notably, it has 43 destinations across the globe with only 12 being international destinations. Owing to its good ranking in the region, with adequate marketing plus good business model the airline has the propensity to grow in the future but it must also fight the corruption and mismanagement leveled against the carrier in recent past.

The traditional Pan American Airline and the Trans World Airlines which were the household or most preferred airlines in the 1980s thus most profitable in the world all the companies went bankrupt and collapsed not due to competition but mismanagement of the companies and funds. KQ must shift its focus from laying staff in a bid to cut off cost and start vibrant marketing strategy to expand its market niche, for example, the largest airline company in the world is the Fly Emirates with a large staff size but makes profit owing to its large market niche and efficient management of the company.

Ethiopian Airline is the largest in the region and the only government-owned airline that makes profits. KQ needs a benchmarking schedule with the ET that also owns other regional subsidiaries mentioned above but our KQ only has the local Jambo Jet as its subsidiary. Fly Emirates has several Asian region based subsidiaries, by KQ expanding it market niche will go a long way in making it profitable and truly the Pride of Africa, KQ should be thinking about acquiring stake in the Uganda Air or Tanzanian Airto help it expand its financial muscles. This expansion can be done through voracious marketing both regionally and abroad, KQ recently launched direct flight to New York is experiencing a slow down due to lack of passengers and cargo plying that route, this again calls for serious marketing.

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I support the move by KQ to acquiring the running and operation of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) since it will have a positive multiplier effect on the profitability and growth of the firm. JKIA is among the top busiest airport in Africa and will offer a good leverage for the KQ notably all the best performing airlines in the world had an airport that the airline owned and thus operated, for example, Fly Emirates has the Dubai International Airport and Ethiopian Airline has the Bole International Airport that both of these airline companies ran and own, however, they should not move in haste to acquire such a property if managing the airline has proven to be a tall order for them over the years, that will only be viable to KQ in the future after making the company financially stable.

Baraka Juma.


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Opinion

Sameer Group’s Naushad Merali Impersonation Saga Of President Uhuru Opens A Pandora Box

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In what seems like a well planned out plot of people who’ve studied the system well to know how it runs and who to target a can of worms has been ripped out.

Merali whom has had close ties with almost all administrations since Kenyatta era, was targeted by the now famous group of seven individuals in what has turned out to be an historic scamming.

On January 14 recieved a call from the ‘President’ about a tender, the tycoon had no reason to doubt he caller was not the head of state. The caller perfectly mimicked his voice.

Merali and the ‘President’ exchanged pleasantries on the phone, then got down to business.

The ‘President informed Merali of a state tender he wanted the well-known businessman to enjoy. But there was a catch. The ‘head of state’ asked Merali for a small favour before he could embark on the lucrative contract, Sh10 million in advance for facilitation. That presumably was a trifle compared to the tender itself.

It happened that Merali was outside the country but that wasn’t gonna stop the show given his appetite, he took the risk and tadked his financial officer to process the facilitation fee which at this point we will call it as it is, a bribe.

So elaborate was the plan that the ‘President’ sent his men to pickup the cash from Merali’s office in Mombasa road. Sharply dressed men arrived with full Police escort and high range cars to clear any touch of doubt. They were given the Sh.10M.

So here’s what I pick from the story that Mr. Merali and President Uhuru are obviously not new to each other and probably have had other personal engagements together beforehand for Merali to quickly give in to the mimicked voice.

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The suspects didn’t target Merali randomly and using uhuru’s voice randomly, this was elaborate, they must have had an insider information in order to be able to exploit the weak links. Sh10M is not a few coins that Merali would just give easily without solid assurance like the president himself collecting the money. The level of confidence Merali had on the ‘President’ could easily point at a possible previous and similar engagement.

It also can mean that, there’s an elaborate ring including Statehouse officials who target businessmen and defraud in President’s name. Infact, Police investigations are exploring this possibility.

The group has links to State House, Harambee House and other powerful offices which they use to execute their swindles.

The scammers lure rich business people with the promises of restricted tenders mainly involving the supply of goods.

To win the trust of potential bidders, the fraudsters in collusion with government officials and police officers forge documents on letterhead and invite their targets to government offices to sign fake documents. This opens up the Pandora box of how tenderprenuers enjoy privileges from the state officials and how money exchange hands to win contracts.

Merali should be arrested on arrival at the airport from wherever he’s now comfortably hiding to answer on bribery and I’m certain investigators can extract more information from him to catch those in the web that is if they’re serious to take this case to the end.

It also opens up a box of lies that the so called flamboyant ‘businessmen’ make their money, most of the suspects arrested live large, they’ve enjoyed positive press before. This isn’t the first time scamming case to hit the airwaves, it’s still fresh in minds about yet another flamboyant ‘businessman’ Jared Otieno who was also in the spotlight for fraud.

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Opinion

Uhuru Must Replace The Rejected Ambassadors By Host Country With Competent Kenyans

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Ambassadorial posts like many other parastatal appointments have been largely awarded on political weighing as opposed to merits. International relations is an important aspect of any country’s growth that’s why serious country’s only assign career diplomats to such duties.

However, in Kenya such posts more often are awarded to political rejects who’re given the positions as reward for sycophancy. It now emerges that seven ambassadors of Kenya have been denied accreditation by their host countries given their tainted records in Kenya.

Though the government has been trying behind the scenes to resolve the unprecedented diplomatic development on the postings, it would appear Russia, Turkey, Austria, China, Malaysia, Namibia and Qatar have rejected the new envoys.

And six months after being vetted by Parliament and consequently appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the seven; Ndegwa Muhoro (Malaysia), Hassan Wario (Austria), Benjamin Langat (Namibia), Johnson Kimani Ondieki (Turkey), Richard Ekai (Russia), Sarah Serem (China) and Paddy Ahenda (Qatar) have yet to report to their foreign duty stations.

Other appointments said to have run into the rare diplomatic headwinds include that of ambassador to the European Union (EU) Phyllis Kandie, who was later replaced by former Cabinet colleague Prof Jacob Kaimenyi.

This is a clear manifest that the so called vetting processes conducted in Kenya are just a farce and that other countries prioritize integrity. It still baffles me how someone like Ndegwa Muhoro successfully went through the vetting process despite having an immensely controversial record while he was the DCI.

Here’s a man who was at the center of extrajudicial killings including unresolved murders of many including businessman Jacob Juma whom many believe was assassinated by the state and IEBC’s ICT Director Chris Musando. Not to mention a heap of corruption accusations labeled against him including the land grabbing of Tatu City.

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It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that Muhoro’s former position as Directorate of Criminal Investigations, might have worked against his appointment as ambassador to Malaysia.

Apparently, Malaysian government has blocked his appointment citing his alleged blighted record during his tenure at Mazingira House, the DCI headquarters.

During his vetting process by the National Assembly, Muhoro whose first appointment to Israel as an envoy did not materialise, was confronted with allegations of spate of extra-judicial killings and unsolved high-profile murders during his tenure. Malaysian government under the new tough Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad blocked the former sleuth’s ambassadorial job.

Another crook who doesn’t deserve to hold any public office is Hassan Wario, the Former Sports CS Wario’s appointment may have run into trouble after he was charged together with Olympics legend Kipchoge Keino over the Sh55 million Rio Olympic graft scandal. His case is still pending in court.

Honestly, these are the peiple expected to represent the face of Kenya in the host countries and they walk in with taunted images? What will this say about Kenya? Malaysia for instance has been a safe hum for many corrupt Kenyans who hide their wealth and then you purport to fight corruption and assign a more corrupt individual like Muhoro to represent the country?

The President Must now live by his words, he recently said that none of those implicated in corrupt cases would be allowed to occupy public offices. This is the perfect time for Uhuru to cut links with his corrupt friends. We have able Kenyans who’re experienced diplomats to fill those voids. More time must not be wasted.

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Muhoro and his group of unworthy choices must be immediately discharged to retirement. The country won’t stop running because a few monkeys fell off the tree. President Must now prove a point on what he really stands for.


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