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Man seeking directions to Somalia depressed, police say

Monday March 11 2019

Mr Backstone Agaro

Mr Backstone Agaro when he appeared in a Mandera court on March 11, 2019. He was released from police custody after it was established that he is suffering from depression and that he was not seeking to join a terrorist group when he sought for directions to Somalia. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MANASE OTSIALO
By MANASE OTSIALO
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Police in Mandera have released a man who was arrested last for asking for directions to Somalia.

Mr Backstone Agaro, 53, had been arrested in Mandera on suspicion that he was on his way to join Al-Shabaab militants.

In a letter to a Mandera court from Mr Francis Lemusi, the head of the Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) Mandera office, Mr Agaro has no links to any terror cell.

Investigation done in two days as ordered by the court indicated that Mr Agaro could have been suffering from depression after he sold all his property and gave the proceeds to a church.

CHURCH

“His family members in Nairobi recorded statements at ATPU headquarters indicating that the respondent was a member of the Ministry of Holiness and Repentance where he gave all his investments,” said Mr Kennedy Amwayi, a State counsel.

The Ministry of Holiness and Repentance is led by the controversial “Prophet” David Owuor who is accused by the family of a Nairobi-based lawyer of brainwashing their kin and taking her property

The lawyer’s family is accusing Dr Owuor of brainwashing their sister (Bishop Jane Njagi) while denying her access to the family.

“Mr Agaro is my uncle and it is true he has been attending Bishop Owour’s church but his behaviour has surprised us,” said Mr Kennedy Agavishi Mulombe by phone.

CARPENTRY SHOP

Mr Mulombe said his uncle would take all his daily earnings from his carpentry shop to the church and that he rarely eats or talks to anybody.

“He travels a lot on grounds that he has been sent by God to go and preach but he ends up seated lonely in many of the towns he travels to. Police at Bahati helped us take him to Mathari Hospital (Nairobi) but health workers were on strike and we returned home,” said Mr Mulombe.

But Mr Agaro, who told the Nation that he joined the church in 1994, insisted that he has never sold his property in order to give money to the church.

“I dropped out of school in Standard Five and my late brother left me a workshop in Mbotela, Nairobi. I also have several shanties which I rent at Sh3,500 monthly. I have sold nothing to give to the church,” Mr Agaro said.

NOTEBOOK

A note book found in Mr Agaro’s possession showed places he has visited either personally or with fellow worshipers for preaching and crusades.

In their letter to the court, police said Mr Agaro was only inquiring about the border to Somalia as it was his first time to Mandera and he got confused after passing a signpost written Mandera County.

“He only wanted to know if he had arrived to his destination in Mandera since he saw a signpost,” Mr Lemusi said in his letter to the court.

Mandera Resident Magistrate Dancun Mtai wondered why the police were offering to escort Mr Agaro to Nairobi and hand him over to his family.

“Why does the ATPU want to escort him to Nairobi yet he came to Mandera on his own and he is within the country without any offence against him?” wondered Mr Mtai.

HUMANITARIAN OFFER

The prosecution explained that the offer by the ATPU was only humanitarian since Mr Agaro is depressed and his family needs him back.

Mr Agaro declined the offer and said he had plans on how to travel in and out of Mandera.

“I have my bus fare back to Garissa then to Nairobi. I had plans of travel. Police have my Sh3,000 to take me back home,” he said.

Mr Agaro was arrested on March 6 after alighting from a bus in Mandera town at about 10pm.

The ATPU accused him then of being a Shabaab spy doing surveillance in the region and the country at large to aid the terror cell in carrying out attacks.