WRITTEN BY EDITOR KALAHAN DENG
Al-Shabab literally means The Youth” in Arabic language. It emerged as the radical youth wing of Somalia’s now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006 before being forced out by Ethiopian forces. Similarly, the ISIS in Syria and Iraq is one of the most dangerous Jihadist groups. It was formed in April 2013, growing out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. It has been since been disavowed by Al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabab on the other hand, has numerous foreign Jihadists helping them but many of these joined for financial reasons. For example, Al-Shabab has set up a recruiting network in Kenya, especially around the part of the city of Mombasa, which has a large Muslim population. Al-Shabab cash targets disillusioned Kenyans. As a result, Al-Shabab has staged numerous attacks in Kenya, the April 2 massacre at Garissa University, where the terrorist groups targeted Christian students. Previously, the worst attack was on Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Centre in 2013, when at least 68 people died. There is no doubt Kenya has a problem with terrorism and with radicalisation. A lot of disillusioned young men who joined Al-Shabab are back at home in Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods. Al-Shabab in Somalia is fighting a war of no ideology, a war against innocent people in Kenya, Uganda, and in the country Somalia.
Many young Kenyans who join the terrorist groups say that if they had money or a job, they would not join Al-Shabab. These young men described Al-Shabab as a lucrative business. One of the young men who came back home told the BBC reporter that he did not travel to Somalia because of ideological beliefs or Jihad but simply because of the money he cannot get in Kenya. Nairobi-based security analyst Mwenda Mbijiwe estimated that a quarter of Al-Shabab fighters are Kenyan. “Al-Shabab is a big threat to Kenya,” says Mr. Mbijiwe, whose security company is known as Eye on Security. One thing for sure, the tragic Garissa University College attack in Kenya on April 2, 2015 led to 147 deaths and a global outpouring of shock and sympathy. But it didn’t approach the intense level of commentary – from journalists and world leaders a like – that the Charlie Hebdo attack in France garnered, despite a far higher death toll. Since 2002, Al-Shabab killed over 600 people in Kenya. There has been only one major attack outside Somalia’s border that didn’t target Kenya the 2010 Kampala bombing. A porous border helps Al-Shabab target Kenya. Though the Kenyan government has announced plans too build a wall along parts of the 424 mile long borders with Somalia.
Finally, Al-Shabab translates to “the youth” in Arabic, a fitting name for an organization that feeds off limited opportunities for young people in the region. A quarter of Al-Shabab’s 7000-9000 forces are Kenyan. Many of them were attracted to Al-Shabab’s high salaries for new recruits, which are reportedly more than $1000. Meanwhile, the average monthly wage in Kenya is $76 ($912 annually). Some 70% of working class of youth are currently unemployed.