The Somali-based Islamist militant group Al Shabaab has published a video of a graduation ceremony for jihadists from East Africa which calls on them to specifically target Christians, particularly in Kenya. The main speaker urges the newly-trained jihadists, many of whom come from Kenya, to return to their own countries as an army that will “conquer” Christians.
Christians are identified as a particular target, with the Al Shabaab leader claiming that they have “occupied” what “used to be a Muslim land”. He gives us specific examples such as Mpeketoni, claiming that this town on the Muslim-dominated Kenyan coastal strip is now home to “one hundred churches and perhaps only one mosque”. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a 2014 attack in this predominantly Christian town that killed at least 50 people when gunmen went door to door asking people which religion they were and shooting non-Muslim men. Mpeketoni was mainly populated by Swahili Muslims until Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta settled landless members of the Kikuyu tribe there in the early 1970s. So al Shabaab appear to be deliberately trying to provoke ethnic tensions in Kenya as part of their strategy to take over.
Similarly the al Shabaab leader claims that “they’ve built churches at the entrance of Mombasa, a historically Muslim city, giving the perception that it is a Christian dominated city.” He asserts that in other parts of Kenya the call to prayer “has been replaced by the chiming of the church bells”.
The newly-trained jihadists are told that their mission is “to work towards the implementation of the sharia of Allah so that it governs the entire world”. They are told to “eliminate all other systems of governance and laws of Kufr [infidels] such as democracy, communism and secularism enforced upon us by the pagans and govern the land according to the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet”. The jihadists are told that they must achieve either “victory or martyrdom” and they “should not be content with anything less than that”.
These claims reflect the teaching of sharia that, when an area has once been subjected to sharia and Islamic government, it is regarded as a defensive act to engage in jihad to re-establish the rule of sharia there. They also illustrate the hostility to church buildings, with sharia specifically forbidding the construction of new church buildings.
The video illustrates the very significant threat that groups such as al Shabaab pose to Christians in Kenya and other areas of East Africa such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania.