A 24-year-old man who claimed he intended to join Al-Shabaab after failing to get admission to university despite scoring an aggregate of A-minus is to serve 10 years in jail.
Richard Baraza Wakachala, 24, of Kitale, Trans Nzoia County, was on Thursday jailed by a Mandera court after admitting he intended to join the terror group.
He was charged that on October 27, at around 1 pm in Mandera Town, he was found travelling to a terrorist-designated country without passing through a designated point.
He was further charged with failure to report his departure to an immigration office as required by law.
He pleaded guilty to both charges.
Mandera Resident Magistrate Duncan Mtai noted that the accused, by his own admission, intended to join Al-Shabaab.
“I have duly considered the accused person’s mitigation together with submission by the prosecution.
“The accused, by his own admission, not only harboured the intention of joining Al-Shabaab, but also actualised his intentions by travelling into Somalia,” said Mr Mtai.
Mr Mtai said the accused’s conduct not only posed a danger to himself but also to national security and by extension to the lives and property of Kenyans.
“To protect our national security and deter our youths from harbouring such intentions, I hereby sentence the accused to serve 10 years' imprisonment,” ruled Mr Mtai.
Baraza has 14 days to appeal the ruling.
The prosecution, led by State Counsel Allen Mulama, told the court that the accused left Kitale Town on October 8 and proceeded to Mandera by road aboard a Tawakal bus. He arrived in Mandera on October 10.
Mr Mulama said that on the same day, the accused was booked in at Nairobi Hotel in Mandera Town. The following day, he set off to look for members of his Luhya community to offer him accommodation.
He said on October 11, the accused found a stranger, who offered him accommodation and on the following day assisted him to get a teaching job at Salama Academy in Mandera Town.
“The accused left the teaching job after two days, claiming he was not comfortable teaching primary school pupils and that he was not happy with the working environment,” said Mr Mulama.
Mr Mulama told the court that on October 14, the accused visited several schools, both private and public, including Alliance Secondary, Towfiq School and Khadija Girls, and was was promised a job beginning next year.
The counsel said the accused crossed into Somalia on October 15 and spent a night in the bushes within Somalia before returning.
“He came back into Kenya on October 16 and spent three nights at the Nairobi Hotel before again crossing into Somalia on October 19 through Kamor Primary School, with his main reason being to join Al-Shabaab,” said Mr Mulama.
The prosecution said the accused confessed that he was frustrated after he failed to secure admission to a university with his A-minus score in the 2012 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam.
On October 26, while in Somalia, the accused met persons believed to be Somalia administrators, who took him to Bula-Hawa to be handed over to Kenyan authorities.
The prosecution argued that the offences committed were of a serious nature owing to the security threat in the country.
“The threat is so real to an extent that the Cabinet secretary for Interior on October 9, through Kenya Gazette Supplement No.172/2015 gazetted Somalia as a terrorist designated country,” said Mr Mulama.
In mitigation, the accused told the court that although he wanted to go to Somalia his conscience told him it was not a good idea and he decided to return to Kenya.
“I wish to ask the government through the court to forgive me as I wish to continue with my studies so that I serve my country.
“I promise the court that given a chance to mix with good citizens I will reform and be a responsible citizen,” said Baraza in mitigation, before the court sentenced him and he was escorted to the Mandera GK Prison.
Baraza's arrest and sentencing come amid enhanced security in Mandera as police announced the discovery of a new Al-Shabaab cell in northeastern Kenya that is planning mass evictions in the region.
Police believe the cells operate from Wajir and spread terror to other towns. It is also recruiting youths from the region under the leadership of Mohamed Kunow Yussuf.