Tuesday, April 7, 2015

RLPB 304. Kenya faces home-grown terrorism

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 304 | Wed 08 Apr 2015

By Elizabeth Kendal

Inaugurated in 2011 the newly built Garissa University College took its first full-year student intake in 2013. Many students profess to being dumbfounded that the government would build a university in a region of such extreme insecurity. Whilst the population of Kenya is 82 percent Christian, North Eastern Province, which borders Somalia, is close to 90 percent Muslim -- largely ethnic Somali -- and can be a hostile place for Christians. Most of the Garissa University College's students were Christians who had been unable to gain admission into their preferred colleges. Despite the threat, the college had only two security guards on duty at any time. One of the guards employed by the college was an ethnic Somali Kenyan national who turned out to be an al-Shabaab sympathiser; he helped facilitate the 2 April attack that left 148 mostly Christian students dead. The mastermind behind the massacre, Mohamed Mohamud, is on the run. Also an ethnic Somali Kenyan national, Mohamud was formerly the principal of a Garissa madrasa (Islamic school). He joined al-Shabaab in Somalia before returning home to lead the group in Kenya. Four of the five gunmen were also ethnic Somali Kenyan nationals -- one was even a promising law graduate and the son of an official. It will be of great concern to Kenya that this latest attack appears to have been fully home-grown. 

map of ethnic Somalis
After claiming responsibility for the massacre, al-Shabaab posted an official statement on-line in which it bemoaned the alleged 'unspeakable atrocities' and 'systematic persecution' of Muslims across East Africa by the government of Kenya. Muslims, it said, were being 'stripped of all their dignity and subjected to the most inhuman treatment for failing to succumb to the subjugation of the disbelievers'. For this reason, it maintains, it became incumbent upon al-Shabaab to retaliate. The statement continues: 'The latest attack occurred at Garissa University College on Thursday. At around 3am the Mujahideen stormed the university compound and swiftly proceeded to the halls of residence where they gathered all the occupants. And since the attack targeted only non-Muslims, all Muslims were allowed to safely evacuate the premises before executing the disbelievers. The Muslim blood is inviolable whereas the blood of a Kafir [disbeliever] has no protection except by Eeman [conversion] or Aman [covenant of security].'

source (includes photo from lecture hall)
According to survivor Helen Titus, upon arrival the gunmen went straight to the lecture hall where Christians were holding an early morning prayer service. The first to die was the young woman leading in prayer. Kenneth Luzakula was standing at the back of the prayer meeting when two gunmen burst into the room. He told Reuters, 'They killed all my friends. I was praying with them when we heard gun shots and two guys who wore hoods and carried long guns came in. I escaped because I was standing next to the rear door, so I dashed out with one other friend. I could hear my friends still praying loudly and calling the name of Jesus Christ.' The gunmen then stormed the halls of residence, taking some 700 students hostage before separating the Christians from the Muslims and executing the Christians as they went. Some were killed when they were unable to recite the Islamic creed (the Shahada), others when they responded with prayers to Jesus. By the end of the day 148 mostly Christian students lay dead with at least 79 wounded. Garissa University College has been closed indefinitely.

On Saturday 4 April an editorial in Kenya's Daily Nation lamented that 19 months after Nairobi's four-day Westgate Mall siege, many of the same security problems persist, particularly the slow response.  Kenyan Special Forces were not deployed to Garissa for at least seven hours, primarily due to administrative bungling. Journalists who made the 365 km trip from Nairobi by car arrived before the critical response team, which did not fly in until 2pm. 'Kenya,' it said, 'must change, from its Hakuna Matata posture and realise that a war is afoot against a merciless enemy.' [Hakuna matata is a common Swahili expression meaning 'no problem'.]

President Kenyatta rightly noted, 'Our task of countering terrorism has been made all the more difficult by the fact that the planners and financiers of this brutality are deeply embedded in our communities. Radicalisation that breeds terrorism is not conducted in the bush at night. It occurs in the full glare of day, in madrasas, in homes, and in mosques with rogue imams.'

In their statement, al-Shabaab referred to Kenya's north-east and coast as 'Muslim lands' under 'Kenyan occupation', adding that until they are 'liberated' it will be a 'long war' and 'Kenyan cities will run red with blood'. Having deemed Muslim blood 'inviolable', more attacks targeting Christians can be expected.


* give great wisdom and strength to the Kenyan government, so it will address the issue of Islamic radicalisation without hurting innocent ethnic Somalis; may the authorities have wisdom to deal with the enormous Somali refugee problem in Dadaab (100km north-east of Garissa) where al-Shabaab fighters have embedded themselves inside camps, surrounding themselves with human shields. [See RLPB 166 (3 July 2012)].

* bless Christians living, working and ministering amongst Muslims on the Swahili Coast, in the city slums and in Somali-dominated North Eastern Province; may the Lord protect them and empower all Christian ministry and witness.

* shield Kenya's churches and other Christian targets while blessing Kenyan Christians with hope and grace amidst trial and suffering; may the Church in Kenya grow in faith, grace and numbers.

* intervene in Somalia and still the turmoil of the nation (Psalm 65:7); may peace be restored so displaced Somalis can return home; may ethnic Somalis -- amongst the most long-suffering people in the world -- be open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and hope of nations (Isaiah 42:1-4).

'In him [the Word/Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' (John 1:4-5 ESV)

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Before dawn on Thursday 2 April gunmen stormed the Garissa University College in eastern Kenya. They separated Christian and Muslim students, executing the Christians as they went. Some students were killed when they could not recite the Islamic creed, whilst others were killed when they responded in Christian prayer. Most of those involved in the massacre, including its mastermind, were ethnic Somali Kenyan nationals who have joined the Kenyan branch of al-Shabaab. They maintain that 'Muslim lands' are under 'Kenyan occupation' and until they are 'liberated' a long war will continue and 'Kenyan cities will run red with blood'. Al-Shabaab states that whilst Muslim blood is 'inviolable', the blood of unbelievers can be spilt. So more attacks on Christian targets are expected. Please pray for Kenya and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).