September 14, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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