On Monday, August 27, 2012, Sheikh Aboud Rogo Mohamed was shot dead by unknown assailants on the Mombasa–Malindi highway in broad daylight, and in the presence of his father-in-law, his wife and five year old daughter. This brazen act of violence was chilling in the manner in which it was carried out. The last time we saw such a high profile assassination was in March, 2009 when Oscar Kingara and John Paul Oulu were gunned down along State House Road in Nairobi. There was and continues to be much speculation about who was behind those killings, just like there is now about Rogo’s. I suspect that we may never know the truth, but that is not the subject of this post.
While it is always a sad thing to lose anyone in the way that Rogo (left) was lost, I must admit that I am having a really hard time summoning up any kind of sympathy for the Muslim cleric. This was a man that had multiple run-ins with the government of Kenya over terrorist related issues. Shortly before his death, the United States and the United Nations Security Council had imposed sanctions on him because of his suspected links to terror activities, and to Al-Shabaab.
There have been attempts by some of his supporters and others to sanitize his image in the last week, but the truth is that Rogo was no saint. He used his position as a Muslim preacher to propagate his brand of Islamic extremism, and judging by the riots that hit Mombasa in the wake of his death, he had quite a decent following. He was suspected to have had a peripheral role in the bomb attacks of August, 1998 in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. He was charged in court over the Kikambala bombing and the attempted downing of an Israeli airliner, though his involvement was never proven. He was recently charged with possession of illegal weapons and belonging to Al-Shabaab. These cases were ongoing at the time of his murder.
What is my point? I am a regular guy. I live a regular life. My needs are pretty basic, perhaps even boring. I want to be able to get out of my house and go about my business without the threat of physical violence from radical groups and individuals who use the cover of religion to justify their acts. Every attack against innocent civilians in Kenya since the 1998 bombings has been carried out by people who claim to be fighting a Jihad. Initially the target was America, but now everyone seems to be fair game. And frankly, I am just sick and tired of it all.
I have many friends who are practicing Muslims and I have great respect for the Islamic faith. I understand it to be a religion of peace. Al-Qaeda and its many off-shoots the world over, including the Shabaab in Somalia have hidden behind Islam to further their agenda through extreme violence against people who do not have a dog in the fight. Rogo was the embodiment of this brand of radicalism and that made him a threat to my way of life. It would be hypocritical of me to pretend that I am sorry that he will no longer poison the minds of impressionable, young men who would readily be willing to join amorphous groups like Al-Shabaab and fight a war they have no stake in.
When gunmen attacked two churches in Garissa on July 1, 2012, and massacred 17 Christian worshipers and wounded many others, Sheikh Rogo praised the heinous act as “... just retribution by oppressed Muslims...” This was clearly a man driven by pure hatred and intolerance of anyone who did not share his faith. That kind of attitude is dangerous in any society and it is unfortunate that he had managed to reach many youth with his vile preaching. We saw what happened last week, the attacks on Christian places of worship by thoroughly misguided young men.
I do not know who took out Aboud Rogo. It may have been the police. Or maybe it was the Americans. Perhaps the sheikh was a victim of people in his own corner. It does not matter. He has been stopped. I do not advocate murder as a permanent solution to dangerous men. It is cold, brutal and final. And there is something seriously disturbing and crude about killing a man in front of his wife and child. It shows a lack of finesse. And it can destroy a young soul and breed serious backlash not immediately apparent.
Nevertheless, I do not mourn Rogo. He rejoiced in the violent deaths of innocent Kenyans who happened not to share his faith. I do not rejoice in his death. But I will not be shedding a tear for him.