Kenya’s al-Shabaab “amnesty”

IRIN reports on the double-edged sword of Kenya’s recent ‘Amnesty’ offered to Kenyans who travelled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab.

The timing of the amnesty was somewhat bewildering and has raised suspicions amongst those who might wish to avail of it that it is but a ruse, especially given the steady disappearance of young men and women who have returned to Kenya and presented themselves to the Kenyan police.



Supporting this theory, a Human Rights Watch report in July alleges that the security forces “have forcibly disappeared at least 34 people in the past two years during abusive counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and in north-eastern Kenya”.

The amnesty was announced in April 2015 by Joseph Knaissery, the Kenyan Secretary for the Interior, just days after the Garissa University College attack by al-Shabaab, which killed 148 and wounded 79, mostly students.

The Garissa University attack followed the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi’s Westland’s district, on 21 September 2013, in which some 67 people died and 175 were injured. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. The attack was seen as a revenge attack for Kenya’s military intervention during 2011-2012 in the jihadists’ Somali homeland.

IRIN tells the story of two young Kenyan Muslim’s who returned from Somali and who disappeared

days after requesting amnesty at a Kenyan police station in . Their whereabouts remain unknownw.muslim protest against al-Shabaab2 and relatives fear their disappearance is related to their decision to avail of the amnesty. The question is, who is responsible: the Kenyan police, or al-Shabaab activists tasked with rooting out deserters?  

On young al-Shabaab jihadist who returned to Kenya told IRIN ““There is nothing like amnesty. It’s a trap. What they mean is they send someone to follow you, and you have days to live. Those who went for the amnesty said the government had forgiven them, but that is not the case.”

The amnesty is clearly not working as promised and that’s a real problem.

Abdulahi Halakhe Boru, a regional security analyst told IRIN:“There is no law, policy, and practice in place to operationalise [the amnesty].”

Joseph Wandera, coordinator at St Paul’s University’s Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh says Kenya is running the risk of squandering a potentially smart initiative, because “this is a government that is disorganised, lacks capacity, and thinks only about expediency.”

The full IRIN report can be read here

A summary of the Human Rights Watch report can be viewed here

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