Kenya: Murder of Muslim Cleric in Mombasa Sparks Riots

The killing of Aboud Rogo, a controversial Muslim cleric, on August 27, 2012, caused riots and unrest in Mombasa, a coastal city and a main tourist destination in Kenya.

These riots, which started on August 27, 2012 and continued until August 30, 2012, saw more than ten casualties. Following the killing of Rogo and the subsequent riots, netizens took to their blogs and Twitter to discuss issues such as extra judicial killings, human rights, religious tensions and lack of employment opportunities fueling anger among the Kenyan youth in Mombasa.

Riots broke out in Mombasa over the killing of Sheikh Aboud Rogo. Churches, passing vehicles were burned and grenades thrown, causing extensive property damage, injuring people and killing two. Mombasa, Kenya. Photo by lawimwaura, copyright © Demotix (27/8/2012)

More images from Mombasa can be found here.

Eberinyama, a Kenyan blogger, wondered if Rogo's alleged linkages with al-Shabab (a militant Islamist group that has been making inroads into Kenya) resulted in his killing. He pointed out that:

Aboud Rogo Mohammed was suspected of being a key recruiter for Kenyan Muslims fighting in Somalia. It is not known who shot him, but he was on a United Nations sanctions list for allegedly financing the militant Somali group al-Shabab.

According to The Canuck FireBrand, Rogo's killing had all the elements of extrajudicial killings that the Kenyan police have earned a reputation for. The blogger reported:

The killing on Monday of Aboud Rogo fits into a pattern of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of suspected terrorists that is allegedly being orchestrated by Kenyan police, say Kenyan human rights groups… He is the fifth alleged Muslim extremist who has been killed or who disappeared in the last four months, according to human rights campaigners. One corpse was found mutilated and the other four men vanished.

Hassan Omar Hassan, a former deputy head of the government-funded, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, said police had used the strategy of eliminating suspects before.

In a 2008 report, the commission said Kenyan police were to blame for the executions and disappearances of more than 500 people who were suspected of being members of a notorious gang during a crackdown on the gang from June-October 2007.

The police on their part denied any role in the killing and have hinted at the possibility of Rogo having been assassinated either by his rivals or by the members of al-Shabab, the latter possibly having done it to gain sympathy and “galvanise support” among the Muslim youth in Mombasa.

Some netizens on Twitter cautioned that the violence was a ploy to escalate unrest within the country:

Sharon Langat (@MeMyKenya): I am almost certain that the assassination of Sheikh Aboud Rogo is an attempt to put Kenya on the map as chaotic again. Lets not follow suit

Others linked the rioting and unrest to grievances over land ownership and growing frustration and anger among the youth in Mombasa,  given the lack of employment opportunities.

Richard Lough warned that long-standing local grievances in Mombasa could worsen the situation:

The violence could worsen if it taps into long-standing local grievances over land ownership and unemployment, as well as calls by the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) for the coastal strip to secede. The MRC said it was not involved in the unrest.

In this context, Tweets mentioned issues such as youth unemployment and poverty:

Sunny Bindra (@sunnysunwords): Sad to see the young and the stupid ruining #Mombasa for all. Especially themselves. Endless poverty looms

Maria (@MariaOC): “#Rogo #MombasaRiots GOK had you given idle youth some employment then they wouldn't be masquerading and threatening innocent people aaargh!

Terryanne chebet (@TerryanneChebet):Youth causing Mayhem in Mombasa have nothing to loose, if young people are economically empowered, then perhaps this wouldnt have happened.

Netizens also called for a stop to the religious violence being unleashed on the Christian community as a fallout of Rogo's killing:

mmnjug (@mmnjug): Threat of religious violence in #Mombasa must be nipped in the bud by @wagaodongo cc @ClanSewe@GSquare94

The YouTube video below, recorded by Kenya's Citizen Television, shows religious leaders from both Christian and Muslim sides and local politicians condemning Rogo's killing and call for calm:

This move was appreciated by netizens who tweeted their approval of this act of interfaith unity and hoped that this would usher in a better and peaceful coexistence of the two religious communities in Mombasa.

Percy Thairu (@inspiredbizblog): @HassanAliJoho is my favorite politician right now. Going out of his way to ensure peace & reconciliation process in #Mombasa happens ASAP

Paul Kinoty (@arapknoty): Good move #Sheikh Ngao, our society could use more leaders like you. #Mombasa Peace initiative

In this context, the following conversation between two Kenyans on Twitter is worth noting:

Kalunde Kilonzo (@Eunicekkilonzo): #Muslims in #Church way to go #VivaMombasa

Daniel Ongera Nyairo  (@Danbelte): It was a good gesture from the Muslim clerics in #Mombasa @eunicekkilonzo

@Eunicekkilonzo: @danbelte yes true…hope it goes beyond the #leaders and to the people as well

@Danbelte: It will.The majority of Muslims and Christians at the coast are peace loving @eunicekkilonzo

@Eunicekkilonzo: @danbelte I come from #Msa and the recent #riots were unexpected…so at this point nothing is #predictable

@Danbelte: All the same,we pray and hope for peace and harmony @eunicekkilonzo

Rogo is the fifth alleged Islamic radical killed in Kenya in 2012. Apart from religious tensions between Muslims and the government in Mombasa, a Mombasa-based separatist group called the Mombasa Republican Council is calling for cessation from Kenya claiming that the Kenyan central government has not done enough to develop the coast.

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