Sep 13, 2018

Identity Complex, Poor Parenting  Among Al Shabaab Targets

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Alex Ngige was born in 1989 to a family of 4 and was raised in Kayole estate, Nairobi County. He schooled up to class 8 and scored 356 marks out of 500 in his KCPE exams. Coming from a single parent family, his mother couldn’t afford school fees for the bright student at the expense of others children.

Ngige and others in the neighbourhood formed a pickpocketing gang to get quick and easy money. He’d take some of the spoils to his mother who never questioned where he got the money from. Two years later, he met an older gangster who introduced him to armed robbery and carjacking. This new gig brought in more money that he used to build his mother a two storey building in Soweto slums and paid for his younger sister’s primary and secondary education.

At this point, his mother knew that he’s a member of an armed gang, and the money financing their new lifestyle was from his criminal activities. She never rebuked him for this vice, matter of fact, she’d ask large sums of money from him and this encouraged his criminal behaviour. This made him feel like a provider at home. He tried to fit in the shoes of his absentee father. He felt more masculine while doing this.

In 2009 he was approached by a man from Majengo slums, who appeared interested in his life story. This man, who was later identified as Ahmed Iman, was a local Muslim cleric who also ran a small business in the neighbourhood. Ahmed convinced him to join Islam and began telling him stories with vivid details of how exciting life was in Somalia.

He convinced him he could get all he’s ever fantasized about in life: Women, Money, and chance to fight like an American commando in Somalia. In 2011, together with others, he went to Somalia, without informing friends and relatives, after being promised a job that pays USD 1,000/Month with no qualifications required. He had joined Al Shabaab.

Little is known about his stint in the militia group. In July 2018 he was among the militants killed by Ugandan Forces in Jilib. Back at home, his mother continues to languish in poverty and most of all in shame for entertaining his bad ways and leading him astray.

It remains a sad story of a young man whose possibility to succeed and rise from the slums was cut short by what began as a quest for identity. Identity complex among the youth has been pointed out as one of the factors contributing to the recruitment of young men and women into violent extremist groups.

Incentives such as money, power and sexual conquests (promise of the 72 virgins) offered by these transnational terror networks also contribute highly to recruitment into terrorist groups. As a societal responsibility, the government has come up with community policing concepts such as the Nyumba Kumi, a programme that allows seamless communication between authorities and civilians. This has helped in rooting out criminal syndicates and terrorist networks that seek to camouflage among the citizenry.

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