‘Who enticed my son to join Al-Shabaab?’

2015-04-12 15:00

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At first glance, Cosmas Wekesa Amseve, Desmond Mghalu and Fatma Ali have absolutely nothing in common. One is a single mother from Tanzania, one is a father from Kenya’s coastal area and the third is a retired Kenyan farmer.

But they are indeed linked in the most terrible way – their children were all involved in last Thursday’s slaughter at Garissa University College in Kenya.

Ali’s son, Rashid Charles Mberesero (21), is allegedly one of the al-Shabaab extremists who left 148 people dead, 79 injured and scores still unaccounted for. Wekesa’s daughter, Emily Namaemba, is missing, and Mghalu’s son, Bryson Mwakulegwa (21), died during the attack.

On Friday evening, as Mghalu was preparing to bury his son, Wekesa was scouring Nairobi’s morgues and hospitals for his daughter, a second-year education student.

“I am having a really hard time,” Wekesa told Kenya’s Capital FM. “I am suffering because I have gone to the mortuary and seen over 50 bodies?...?but my daughter is nowhere.”

Capital FM reported that by Friday, 130 victims had been identified, and 55 had been released to their families.

But the remainder were so badly mutilated that they needed to undergo DNA testing, which may take three to four weeks.

Wekesa is hoping that the DNA tests will provide the answer to Emily’s whereabouts – none of the bodies he has checked matched his daughter’s fingerprints.

“We have hope that her body will be found because there are many other bodies still unclaimed. There is one particular body which has her features, and every time I think about her, I rush inside the mortuary to see whether it is still there,” he said.

For Mghalu, however, the dreadful wait is over.

He collected the body of his son from the mortuary on Thursday and accompanied it to his home on the coast on Friday. The young student was buried yesterday.

Hundreds of kilometres away in Tanzania, Ali is also in mourning – not for a dead son, but for a lost one.

When Ali said goodbye to Mberesero in January, she expected to see him again three months later – not as a suspected terrorist, but as a student coming home for a holiday.

Ali, who had raised Mberesero alone after splitting from his father Charles Temba shortly after his birth in 1994, said goodbye to her son, thinking he was returning to school to study physics, chemistry and biology in Tanzania.

Then last week, they discovered during a television broadcast that Mberesero had been arrested for allegedly taking part in one of the most gruesome terror attacks on Kenya in 17 years.

Ali was devastated and shocked. She had hoped her son would become a doctor or an engineer, but now her hopes are shattered.

“I still do not know the person who enticed my son to join al-Shabaab and I have been saddened by the news that he has been arrested in Kenya,” she told the Daily Nation.

Mberesero’s father, who was reunited with his son last year, said their reunion had floundered after he tried to convince his son to convert to Christianity.

Mberesero vehemently rejected the idea and stopped talking to his father.

This, the family believe, was the beginning of a new chapter in his life – joining Islamic militant group al-Shabaab.

Like Ali, Temba was shocked to find out that his son was being accused of taking part in the gruesome attack masterminded by al-Shabaab.

Mberesero was hauled into court on Thursday and remanded until May 7.

He has allegedly confessed to being a member of the extremist group.

Prosecutor Daniel Karuri said preliminary investigations on Mberesero’s cellphone had revealed the Tanzanian national had been in constant communication with several people in Somalia who are suspected to be al-Shabaab operatives.

Mberesero allegedly hid for eight hours before he was arrested – first he pretended to be one of the dead students and then he hid in the roof of one of the university buildings.

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