The Mombasa Republican Council has established links with Al Shabaab, police boss David Kimaiyo said on Sunday, just two weeks before Kenya marks one year since the Westgate Mall attack in which the Somalia-based terrorist group killed 69 people.
The two organisations are now working closely, according to Mr Kimaiyo.
MRC is localised secession group at the Coast. Al-Shabaab, on the other hand, is fighting to establish a Taliban-style state in Somalia. Its leader, Ahmed Godane, was killed last week in a US airstrike and at the weekend, the group announced that it had picked Ahmed Omar Abu Ubaidah to replace him. Godane is believed to be one of the masterminds of the Westgate attack.
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The statement by Mr Kimaiyo is likely to support the allegation that MRC and Al Shabaab worked together during the attacks at the Coast especially in Lamu and Tana River where more than 100 people were killed in raids earlier this year.
Mr Kimaiyo imposed a dawn to dusk curfew on July 19, which he extended last month to allow the government to carry out security operations in the area.
His statement comes just days after East African and Indian Ocean countries agreed to pass laws to criminalise radicalisation of youth in an effort to fight the spread of terrorism in the region.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Seychelles agreed to share security institutions and intelligence in the face of new threats posed by terrorist organisations.
These was one of the agreements reached last week during the Peace and Security Council of the African Union which was attended by seven heads of State.
The resolutions arose from meetings of police chiefs and spy chiefs from Africa who met in Mombasa and Nairobi two weeks ago.
The Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (Eapcco) brought together top police commanders from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Comoros, Eritrea, the Seychelles, South Sudan, Tanzania and Kenya. Interpol, France, Germany, Turkey, Algeria and Nigeria were also represented in the latest talks.
Insecurity at the Coast has been exacerbated by growing youth radicalisation.
The issue of “radicalism and extremism” extensively discussed in the Mombasa and Nairobi meetings.
At the end of the talks, the summit resolved to come up with laws that criminalise “radicalisation and extremism” in member countries.
“Having deliberated extensively on the phenomena of radicalism and extremism which is on the rise in Eastern Africa region, and aware of the causes, effects and challenges on radicalism and extremism, bearing in mind that groups of youths constitute the larger portion of the populations, and their vulnerability for recruitment and subsequent involvement in extremist activities, member countries should take deliberate measures to criminalise this phenomena as a matter of urgency,” the resolution said.
Leaders also agreed that radicalism does not at present constitute an offence.
“But the process of radicalisation constitutes offences which include incitement, discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, race, socio-economic status and groups of communities,” their report said.
And before member countries were asked to draft such laws for their countries, radicalisation was defined afresh and the new meaning adopted by all.
It read: “Radicalisation is the turning of individuals or groups to an extremist or intolerant mind set and course of action and the growing readiness or justification to facilitate or engage in non-democratic or illegal methods leading up to the likelihood or actual execution of violence to achieve their goals.”
Furthermore, the member countries would consider establishing special courts, as well as investigations and prosecution units, to deal with offences arising from radicalisation.
Considering the enormous resources required, countries were asked to share facilities and skills.
For instance, the Karen-based counter-terrorism centre in Kenya was asked to open its doors to senior security officials from other countries.
The forensic laboratory in Uganda will likewise offer support to detectives from member countries and since Tanzania has a police academy, it is expected to become the regional training hub for advanced law enforcement.
The Seychelles was chosen to host the centre for “sharing crime intelligence, training on investigation techniques and joint investigations.”
“That, however, does not limit member countries from pursuing their own endeavours but collaboration is the key word here,” said Mr Kimaiyo.