Kenya: Al-Shabaab terror is a homegrown problem- Aden Duale

Garissa Township MP and Majority Leader of The National Assembly Aden Duale

By Mwaura Samora

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale shocked Kenyans when, in a surprising turn-around, he tore into Al-Shabaab and its financiers and sympathisers. He spoke to Mwaura Samora about the Garissa massacre, the continued presence of KDF forces in Somalia and rumours of a plot to establish an Islamic state in Northern Kenya.

As a senior Garissa leader, do you think the attack could have been averted?

Yes and no. If intelligence was provided, then it could have been averted. If all security organs, the local community and the leadership were working together, the massacre could have been prevented. There is a gap between the security sector and the leadership We as  leaders want to bridge this gap.

Politicians in the region have threatened to expose local people who either support or are members of Al-Shabaab. Why now?

We can confirm that the Al-Shabaab terror threat is a homegrown problem. When our university educated children are part of those killing Kenyans, including Kenyan Somalis, then it means this is a homegrown threat. We want parents of children who have gone missing to come out and report to the police so they can be arrested when they come back. The moderate sheikhs are also scared of reprisals, but we are telling them to come out and counter the script and creed of the Al-Shabaab. We are asking the community to name the financiers and supporters of these killers. We are happy the government has already blacklisted institutions and organisations said to be involved in terrorism.

You previously opposed the closing of refugee camps. Why the change of heart?

There is serious actionable intelligence showing that part of the refugee camps have become fertile hiding grounds for the Al-Shabaab. They are said to train here, conduct radicalisation classes and send suicide bombers from there. We are saying, please relocate them across the border 30 kilometers inside Somalia and let UNHCR build for them the necessary infrastructure and provide security. The security of our people is more important than international obligations or the security of refugees. Kenya will not be the first country to do this. Tanzania did it.

You were fiercely opposed to a security swoop in Eastleigh. Would you support a swoop in Garissa?

No, I will never support a situation where the security forces harass innocent people, whether in Garissa, Kisumu or Nairobi. Security operations should be guided by intelligence. They go to Garissa and flush out suspected terrorist supporters or sympathisers based on intelligence reports. Other people who are not part of the Al-Shabaab network should not be victimised. We need them to volunteer information to security personnel willingly and help in documenting and flushing out members of this murderous militia from their midst.

Are you not worried about your personal safety?

I am the Majority Leader in Parliament, and therefore my voice and stand in the war against terror is not negotiable. I am also the Chairman of North Eastern Parliamentary Group, and I cannot run away and bury my head in the sand because of fear. I will die one day anyway, whether from a disease or bullet. As a Muslim, I know that I can’t escape it when my time comes. I can even die in the safety of my bedroom.

There are allegations that rich Somali businessmen who benefited from illegal trade through Kismayu Port are sponsoring the terror attacks to pressurise the government to withdraw the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) from Somalia?

There are many people and groups that don’t want the KDF in Somalia. They include businessmen who made money when the country was in chaos and Al-Shabaab was in charge. They are not happy because KDF took over and stabilised Kismayu which was being used by the Al-Shabaab to smuggle contraband to Somalia and Kenya. There are also those who believe in clan politics who say KDF is only protecting Jubaland.

Do you think the withdrawal of KDF would keep out the terrorists?

My position and those from leaders and people of North Eastern is very clear. We want KDF to remain in Somalia until they completely rout Al-Shabaab so that the militia have no base from which to launch attacks against Kenya.

Do you think the proposal to build a wall along the Kenya-Somalia border will stop infiltration by terrorists?

The border is too long and the wall would be very expensive to build and maintain. But there are alternatives which we have given to the president, which is to give the command structures of AMISOM along the Kenyan border to the KDF. The border sections from Lamu to Mandera must be guarded by KDF. The wall can be a solution in major towns like Mandera with an amorphous borderline.

There are reports that some North Eastern politicians are fuelling terrorist attacks to create an Islamic caliphate named Gharre Country…

The Somali community and North Eastern in general are far much better off than they were in 1963. We have three counties that get more than Sh20 billion in resources, we have top positions in this government and we are doing very well in the private sector.

Why would we want to alienate ourselves? We believe in a united Kenya where the North Eastern will one day produce a president or deputy president. That is a foreign ideology that we don’t believe in and we are going to fight.

But caliphate perpetrators have a yellow, green and red flag with a camel insignia that has been spotted in events attended by the region’s politicians…

The only militia flag I am aware of is the black flag of the AlShabaab. I am not aware of such a thing as Gharre Country.

Who is this Ethiopian ‘sultan’ who is said to have a militia that controls North Eastern Kenya?

I am not aware of the existence of such a person.