Ever since the US Africa Command commenced airstrikes against the Al Shabaab offensive in Somalia, the militant group has lost many key leaders. Early this year after an airstrike the US confirmed the death of Bashir Mohamed Qorgab, an individual who was on the US most wanted list for human rights violations and terrorist activities. Abdulqadir Commandos, who held numerous positions within the Islamist militant group, including recently serving as a senior Al Shabaab commander was also annihilated in an airstrike a few months later in August 2020. The Somali National Army also killed at least 14 of the Al Shabaab militants in the same attack, further weakening the militant group.
These constant attacks against the Al Shabaab have seen many of their recruits defect, seeking entry back to their home countries. These defectors returning to Kenya have posed a lot of questions, what’s next for them? Are they a threat to their communities? Are they spies? Will they face charges for their terror activities? Will their families and communities accept them back?
For many, joining Al Shabaab is an act of free will. For others, it is something done out of fear or the lack of opportunities and options. For the defectors, leaving the group is a choice that can cost them their life. It is thus a sound security strategy to be there as a country for these defectors. Many defectors have told of the inhumane conditions they’ve lived in while in hideouts with the group, the savagery with which they were treated despite being members of the militant group, some have had friends they left Kenya with murdered and beheaded by Al Shabaab for trying to escape and other minor offenses. They tell a story of a disheveled band of terrorists, lost in internal administrative squabbles and political aspirations rather than a faith-based Jihad as they claim.
Rehabilitation and Reform for defectors is a good program for the returnees as it will empower them and help them live for a good cause and consequently deter other youths from wanting to join terror groups.