Rogo death seen as setback to radicalism in Kenya

By Bosire Boniface in Wajir

September 14, 2012

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Aboud Rogo Mohammed was unique in his ability to elicit radical thought and violent behaviour from his followers, and he is not likely to be replaced anytime soon, analysts told Sabahi.

The first day of riots in Kenya following the death of Islamst cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed. [AFP] Play Video
  • Kenya's anti-riot police face people protesting the assassination of radical Islamist cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed in front of the Musa Mosque in Mombasa on August 31st. Rogo had used the mosque as a main venue to spread extremist messages. [Simon Maina/AFP]

    Kenya's anti-riot police face people protesting the assassination of radical Islamist cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed in front of the Musa Mosque in Mombasa on August 31st. Rogo had used the mosque as a main venue to spread extremist messages. [Simon Maina/AFP]

  • Aboud Rogo Mohammed sits in a Mombasa court on January 30, 2012 after being charged with possession of illegal weapons. [Michael Richards/AFP]

    Aboud Rogo Mohammed sits in a Mombasa court on January 30, 2012 after being charged with possession of illegal weapons. [Michael Richards/AFP]

Rogo was killed August 27th in a drive-by shooting in Mombasa, sparking riots that targeted churches and businesses throughout the city.

The fiery cleric was on international sanctions lists for engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threatened the peace, security or stability of Somalia. The UN Security Council placed a travel ban and an asset freeze on Rogo in July, as he had provided "financial, material, logistical or technical support to al-Shabaab".

While not a member of al-Shabaab or Kenya's al-Hijra group, commonly known as the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC), Rogo had ties to both extremist groups. According to the United Nations, Rogo was the main ideological leader of the MYC, which has openly admitted ties with al-Shabaab.

In turn, al-Shabaab said in a statement August 27th that while Rogo was not "officially a member of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, he, like the rest of the Muslims in Kenya, shared unbreakable religious ties with the mujahideen".

Since his killing, taped recording of his various speeches, sermons and lectures are being sold in Mombasa and Nairobi markets. The tapes appear to be amateur recordings from audience members.

In one such tape from a speech delivered in Nyeri district in Central Province on April 12th, Rogo said Somalia is the seedbed of jihad in Africa and Asia, and proclaimed that Islam would prevail in Somalia and the entire continent. He also called on Muslims to take up arms and join those who are allegedly fighting for Islam in foreign countries.

In addition, he labelled Muslims who serve in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) as apostates after the KDF launched an offensive against al-Shabaab in October 2011 in response to the Somali militant group's incursions into Kenya and subsequent kidnappings there.

"Islam shall stand by the sword; without it, Islam shall not stand," he told the Nyeri audiance. "When Kenyan forces went to Sierra Leone for peacekeeping, they did not go there with trucks of ice cream. They went there with guns, tanks and planes. That is how you create peace," he said.

In another tape dated April 10th, he described mainstream Muslim leaders as cowards, adding that he preferred the courage of armed robbers.

A career of instigating inter-religious unrest

Despite dropping out of school at an elementary level, Rogo was known for fiery speeches that captivated audiences wherever he preached, most often at the Musa Mosque in Mombasa's Majengo neighbourhood.

Rogo began his activism decades ago, arriving in Mombasa from Siyu Island in Lamu County in 1989 and railing against the government for blocking Tanzanian Muslim preachers from entering Kenya.

David Ochami, a Mombasa-based journalist who covers militant groups for Kenya's The Standard, said Rogo had the oratory prowess of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the logic of Egyptian ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Rogo preached tirades against the media, the United States, the Kenyan government, other preachers and formal education.

Ochami told Sabahi that Rogo, who delivered his speeches in Swahili, was able to appeal to and instil fear in large numbers of recruits and sympathisers. Some of his recordings reached other Swahili-speaking countries, such as Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

"Listening to those audio and video recordings, one can see that he mixed his charisma with the recklessness of al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri," he said.

In the recording from April 10th, he decreed that Muslims should not participate in politics, the government or the armed forces because they restricted Muslims from fighting for what he said was an inevitable global caliphate. He said he regretted his unsuccessful contest for a civic post in Bondeni Ward in 1992 due to the secular setting of politics, as he said Muslims should not engage in inter-religious dialogue.

On July 6th, days after terror attacks on churches in Garissa that killed 17 people, including a Muslim policeman, Rogo declared such killing to be a just retribution for what he considered the desecration of Muslim land by Christians.

Ochami said Rogo not only promoted confrontation with Jews and Christians, but also rejected modern education as a forbidden, corrupting influence. "If a child goes for secular education, when will he find time to memorise the Qu'ran?" he said in the April tape.

Extremist groups hindered by Rogo's death

While other recruiters operated discreetly and issued edicts from unknown locations, Rogo operated openly. Therefore, his death constitutes a significant blow to radicalism in Kenya and his followers will find it difficult to replace a person of his charisma and boldness, analysts say.

Security analyst and retired KDF Major Bashir Hajji Abdullahi said Rogo's death was a serious blow to radicalism, but not necessarily a fatal one.

"The violent reactions to his killings are a testament that he has followers who regard him as a martyr, but no one will be willing to openly take his place in the near future," he told Sabahi.

Garissa District Commissioner Maalim Mohammed told Sabahi that Rogo's death does not mean the end of discontent, violence or terrorist activities, but said the government will remain vigilant. He said the general public should also stay vigilant because such radicalism will retreat underground.

He said extremism thrives when such views are constantly able to be publicly expressed. Rogo kept the fire of extremism burning by preaching in venues wherever he went in the country, the commissioner said.

Without someone so charismatic and relentless, the desire for violence slowly burns out, causing a large blow to individuals and groups like the MYC who may have relied on him to pass messages for them, he said.

"We have brought religious leaders from all faiths on board to help us in the fight against radicalism and al-Shabaab," he said. "They may not openly condemn the radicalism but they can monitor who among them could sow radicalism and we will act [on that]."

Ochami told Sabahi that al-Shabaab's call for Muslims to resort to violence in response to Rogo's death is an indication that he was a crucial figure for the militants' ideologies.

He said the violent riots that followed his death in Mombasa is a testament to the man's loyal following, and the indiscriminate destruction and looting of businesses may also indicate his loyalists' sense of desperation for having lost an indispensable leader, he said.

"No one had expected his killing and it has undoubtedly forced those with extremist views off their feet with the knowledge that someone is monitoring them," Ochami said.

He said it is critical that remaining al-Shabaab strongholds in Somalia, including Kismayo, are liberated soon to prevent Kenyan radicals from finding safe havens from which they can freely operate and propagate their misguided ideologies.

Muslim leaders should speak out against extremism

Sheikh Juma Ngao, chairman of the Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, told Sabahi that clerics should stand up against radicalism and those who twist religious teachings to suit nefarious goals.

"We have seen criminal acts in the name of defending a religion which is prohibited in the Qur'an," he said, adding that there is no holy war in the region. "A situation has been created to appear that Christians and Muslims are at war, which is not the case. There is no environment in Kenya or Somalia that warrants a jihad," he said.

Nonetheless, he condemned the killing of Rogo and asked the government to investigate and arrest the perpetrators of his killing and recent grenade and landmine attacks in Kenya.

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Reader's Comments

  • Issa Mohamed
    July 31, 2014 @ 12:22:25PM

    A good example of an intelligent Muslim's life is Sheikh Aboud Rogo. Indeed, Allah has decided to save his creature from many unjust challenges. Rest in peace our sheikh.

  • Kiza
    July 29, 2014 @ 09:11:42AM

    The Late Rogo has done his duty, the rest is up to us who are still alive. May ALLAH reward him the good things that He has prepared for him.

  • baba araphaty
    October 10, 2013 @ 07:13:52AM

    The true Muslim is the one who is ready to die for his religion. Peace is never achieved by caressing each other, because in this world, there is no other pirates than the Americans heavy weapons to control the Muslims. Gun for gun.

  • ELJAH MOHAMMAD
    August 26, 2013 @ 06:25:17PM

    If there is a video on the killing of Sheikh Ponda, please let us see how our Sheikh was killed.

  • mtetezi
    March 15, 2013 @ 09:44:10PM

    Muslims can not just take weapons and fighting unbelievers, but they are provoked. That is why they want to liberate themselves. See how American conspires against Muslim nations, how he kills Muslims. Isn't he a terrorist? But when a Muslim defends his people and his religion you call him a terrorist. This pure stupidity and lack of intellect amongst you, the infidels.

  • kevin star
    January 4, 2013 @ 11:11:51AM

    The Almighty weeds out the evil in this world ,it was Gods will that he died and no one else is to blame that is why muslims believe when they say INSHALLAH ! but this evil small minded uneducated person poisend the hearts of Gods creations against each other .We Praise and Accept Gods will and live under his protection ,how would rogo feel if christians called him a kaffir and wanted him to be forced to become a christian ,my brothers and sisters we are all under The Almighty, our religions is only a way to The Almighty ,no one can stand between his brother or sister and God the almighty

  • mbaruku
    October 27, 2012 @ 05:22:46AM

    A true Muslim is one who saves fellow Muslims with his hands and his mouth,, this means that, the Islam of today has been built by many hypocritical people in national positions of religious leadership. This is confirmed by the events that are going on in different parts of the world especially here at home in East Africa. My brothers understand that all these are plans that have been put in place by America and her associates. Remember the words of Allah that say that Jews and Christians will not be pleased until you follow their traditions, but remember also that everything that has a beginning has an end. Remember that before America became powerful in the world there were countries that were more powerful than America, ask yourselves where are they?

  • Deo Kasmiry
    October 25, 2012 @ 01:58:55AM

    Your column is very good every day

  • benard mbaya
    October 22, 2012 @ 07:24:24PM

    May the lord forgive those who killed Rogo , justice will prefail. rest in peace until we meet .

  • sabato
    October 18, 2012 @ 07:29:43AM

    My bothers you were born not by bad luck, nor by the purpose of the person who gave birth to you, no it’s by God’s purpose. So don’t sit and debase the prophets of the Almighty God. Preach about the faith with which you were born, why stand in front of an audience and start debasing the faith of someone else, or the prophets of God. I ask as a peace lover if leaders do not condemn this it will create problems later. I ask for public meetings which focus on preventing the disruption of peace, leaders you are there why do you see and hear these few people spoiling the peace we have and you leave them?? These baobab tree began as a spinach seedling. Let them happen, look on, but when they have already occurred don’t look for a solution. Let blood be shed as that seems to be your aim.

  • john maina
    October 11, 2012 @ 06:35:02AM

    there should be tolerance and respect for all people

  • Selemani
    October 11, 2012 @ 04:49:36AM

    Rogo had no education but born shrewd and cunning. To him his knowledge of islam was the only tool to earn him a decent living. he played with emotions of fellow muslims to sow hatred and divisions among muslims and people of other faiths so as to pick gains from local and foreigners who survive on conflicts.

  • Swaleh
    October 10, 2012 @ 07:31:23AM

    Lord, keep Rogo in eternal peace. God will judge those who killed Rogo.

  • mjuskafiri
    October 4, 2012 @ 09:06:32AM

    Rogo deserved to die as he advocated for eradication of kafiris

  • shikoh
    October 2, 2012 @ 04:58:39AM

    i think rogo did not deserve to die and even though he wasa threat to state securuty, they would have let him leave to face judgement from the authority may he rest in peace.

  • tim
    September 29, 2012 @ 01:29:04PM

    a wise man once told me there are only two paths once you pick up a gun you are either going to kill or get killed. I told him if I pick it up I will throw it in the ocean Peace be unto you all.

  • sadamu b hamadi
    September 29, 2012 @ 01:03:20PM

    Every soul will taste death truly Rogo has accomplished what he was sent to do by the almighty god

  • mohammed mansoor
    September 29, 2012 @ 05:58:00AM

    muslims are targeted and we have to stop these

  • andy
    September 29, 2012 @ 04:41:05AM

    a religion where a woman is a lesser being n where u kill in the name of going to wahetever they call heaven...This beats logic HOW ON EARTH CAN THAT BE TRUE

  • camnty
    September 28, 2012 @ 09:58:10AM

    rogo got what he deserved for his radicalism role in the country

  • wainaina
    September 28, 2012 @ 09:28:27AM

    am a big supporter of ant-islam,thanks for the good work that have been done by both america and the government of kenya to suppress the work of devils,may lord bless you,also it is high time for you devilish people to change

  • AMANI
    September 28, 2012 @ 05:23:20AM

    MY ALHAA FORGIVE THOSE WHO KILL ROGO FOR THERE WRONG DUING.

  • Maina
    September 27, 2012 @ 05:36:54AM

    Those who use gun to kill are killed by the gun.might look outrageous but remember Rogo`s Support to Al-shaabab ended up in the procurement of guns not madraasa books.Sorry the Government was not able to protect him being a kenya like any other.

  • Christian
    September 27, 2012 @ 04:32:10AM

    Those who live by the sword die by the sword!

  • caleb
    September 27, 2012 @ 04:07:41AM

    rogo is just mad we need peace in kenya we simply did not apply to be born to be who we are , extremism does not help us

  • wyckyy
    September 27, 2012 @ 04:06:20AM

    If bin laden was killed burried in the water gadaffi burried in the desert sadam.Rogo is just a chuff

  • Bev
    September 26, 2012 @ 03:40:18AM

    Good riddance to evil rubbish!

  • kiim
    September 25, 2012 @ 01:23:46PM

    terrorist

  • fifi
    September 25, 2012 @ 02:52:43AM

    why killing?where is there "happy kenya nowadays?there is nothing to comment about,he could be punished for wat he did bt not by death?does any religion accept killing?muslims wake up!!!! why they dnt kill those al-shabab in somali,instead they kill kenyans?they have power we have God....

  • mohd
    September 23, 2012 @ 10:20:37AM

    Islam is a just religion and for sure God will protect it until the end of the world

  • RAMSO
    September 23, 2012 @ 05:42:41AM

    I hate the people that killing SHEKH ABOUD ROGO. ALLAH REST HIM IN PEACE

  • [email protected]
    September 21, 2012 @ 07:54:01AM

    I hate war like religions, I love peace and justice done to all irregardless of your religion

  • Boggy
    September 19, 2012 @ 06:11:34PM

    I am a Christian and i believe in 10 commandments of God, do not kill. and also they way Rogo was killed was in Human , he should have been arrested and taken to court. the person who killed Rogo will never live in peace and also one day he is going to die .

  • Baba G
    September 19, 2012 @ 03:00:20AM

    The one with the ability to judge is God only, because the Bible says “Judge not lest you be judged”, how is it that people judge fellow human beings and what’s more unto death even if they have made mistakes they should not be treated like that. State apparatus exist for example the courts, arrest them and take them there but don’t kill them. May God forgive us

  • muslim
    September 17, 2012 @ 07:00:32AM

    He described Somalia as a holy war park for Africa and Asia, adding that Islam will succeed with the will of God. May God punish him for this hate speech. Secondly, you have to know that Islam’s success is clear and those like you will be held responsible for their work by God.

  • ciil qabe
    September 16, 2012 @ 06:42:32PM

    As Kenyans, we don’t want to execute illegal actions using Sheikh Robow’s killing as an excuse because we have a government that is able to investigate the matter and bring the perpetrators to book. Peace and blessings of God be on you.

  • Mohamud
    September 16, 2012 @ 05:22:58AM

    You are disbelievers if you are happy about the killing of a Muslim by a disbeliever. May God rest Sheikh Rogo’s Soul in paradise.

  • waranle
    September 16, 2012 @ 02:42:57AM

    What shall we write? There is no doubt that this website belongs to the American intelligence service. May the wrath of God be those who work for the enemies of the people and the religion. Those who also don’t follow the tradition of the prophet and the teachings of the religion and who work for the consulates of the disbelievers have gone astray. They are not religious and God-fearing people. Don’t they have feelings? Don’t they see the unreasonable way America defends the Jews? Why don’t they choose to defend their religion the same way??????????????

  • CXXC
    September 15, 2012 @ 02:28:35PM

    The security of those people are alive now should be strengthened and effort made thereafter to arrest those who were behind the killing of the Muslim cleric. They should be brought before the communities living there.

  • jimmy mwai
    September 15, 2012 @ 10:59:43AM

    i have no respect for people who propagate extremism on whatever religion i believe in tolerance and respect of all religions since in the eyes of God we are all equal!!

  • yusuph said
    September 15, 2012 @ 03:25:35AM

    R.I.P. ambasador steven comes around goes around

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