Inequality pushing youths to join Shabaab: report

Thursday January 26 2012

Photo/FILE  Islamist insurgents pose with their weapons for the media in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 16, 2009.

Photo/FILE Islamist insurgents pose with their weapons for the media in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 16, 2009.  

By AGGREY MUTAMBO [email protected]

An international lobby group wants the Kenyan government to find ways of distributing wealth equally as a solution to youths joining terrorist organisations.

In a report released on Thursday, the International Crisis Group said the Somali militant group, Al-Shabaab, has been penetrating Kenya because some regions have “long standing grievances against the central state.”

The group notes that many of those joining militia groups come from areas considered to be the worst victims of “unequal development.”

The organisation says al-Shabaab has established a secret following especially among Kenyan youth at the Coast, North Eastern and Nairobi regions because of rising unemployment and poverty levels.

“A history of insurgency, misrule and repression, chronic poverty, massive youth unemployment, high population growth, insecurity, poor infrastructure and lack of basic services, have combined to produce some of the country’s bleakest socio-economic and political conditions,” it states.

With the misery and sense of ‘forgotten by the state’, these youth often join support links to al-Shabaab hoping to earn a living.

About ten days ago, Al-Shabaab appointed Sheikh Ali as the de facto leader of Kenyan Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia. This is after the Sheikh, a Kenyan, called for revenge attacks against his country.

According to police reports, the man is said to attract financial support and followers from countries like the US and Europe.

Recently two Britons; Natalia Faye Webb and Jermaine Grant were arrested in Kenya over claims of links to terrorism.

According to the International Crisis Group, the porous border between Kenya and Somalia has also increased the number of al-Shabaab supporters in Kenya, because they can easily come in and leave, often with small arms.

“The long and porous border is impossible to police effectively. Small arms flow across unchecked; creating a cycle of demand that fuels armed criminality,” the report says.

Kenya Defence Forces entered Somalia in pursuit of the al-Shabaab after a series of attacks and abductions of foreigners.

But while the pursuit has continued, the Somalia militant group linked to al-Qaeda has continued to stage several grenade attacks in parts of Nairobi and north eastern regions.

But the Crisis Group says pursuing the terrorists in Somalia could only be a short-term solution because more Kenyan youth are getting radicalised.