Saturday, November 01, 2008


At the height of its days, the Muslim charity Al-Haramain had a vision for Isiolo District and many other part of Kenya. The organisation ran a complex, with primary and Islamic schools, an orphanage for 200 needy children, among other activities in Isiolo alone. However, after the 1998 bomb attack in Nairobi, followed by the Kikambala bombing in 2002, the charity was closed and no proper information was given by the NGO Council and the Kenyan Government.

The US, which accused it of spending donations to fund Al-Qaeda, had, however, built a dormitory at the centre, which has not opened due to lack of funds. Mr Maalim Hussein, the centre’s co-ordinator, is a worried man. Suffering children Hussein’s plea is that the Government and other donors should revive the charity and offer financial support, saying hundreds of needy children were suffering.

"Thousands of children from poor families used to benefit from Al-Haramain. Since its closure a decade ago, those who relied on it have dropped out of school," said Mr Ismael Galma, Wabera ward councillor in Isiolo District.

Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHF) is a private, charitable, and educational organization dedicated to promoting Islamic teaching throughout the world. It is one of the principal Islamic non-governmental organizations active throughout the world. Funding generally comes from grants from other countries, individual Muslim benefactors, and special campaigns, which selectively target Muslim-owned business entities around the world as sources of donations.

Al Haramain did specialise in orphanages, health centres, schools and pays fees for the poor. It also engages in income generating projects, disaster preparedness and other recovery programmes. Al Haramain had ran various charitable and humanitarian projects in Nairobi, Mombasa, Garissa and Namanga. That means closing down of Al Haramain and many other muslim organizations really affected many poor and needy families.

However, as the war on terror intensified, the US got uneasy with charities funded by Middle East countries that help poor kenyans and muslims around the world. Now, the vulnerable Muslim pastoralists in northern Kenya are a bitter lot after a crackdown was initiated and several organisations shut, including Al-Haramain, whose headquarter was in Saudi Arabia. But no evidence was lined up linking the organisation to terrorism. The organisation was not formally deregistered as required under the National NGO Council regulations.

The Kenyan Government only succumbed to pressure from the US and paralysed the NGO’s operations by freezing its accounts and deporting foreign officials. Some officials were detained for weeks in police cells. The Kenyans were released later while their foreign counterparts from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt and Algeria were deported.

Kenya’s oldest Muslim organisations — Young Muslim, and Islamic Foundation — were not closed, but funding was restricted to Britain and America, officials said. The Young Muslim Association (YMA), is a Kenyan registered Muslim Charity which Started in post-independence Kenya in 1964, its aims were to look after the well-being of the Muslim Community in Kenya. By 1968 the Young Muslim Association had started one of its major projects - the Garissa Muslim Childrens Home (GMCH), catering for Muslim orphans from all over Kenya. In addition to this project, there are many other important Social, Welfare and Dawah Projects that the YMA run. To limit such a bigger Muslim charity organization causes great difficulties in assisting many Muslims who rely on them. Most of the needy are homeless, orphans, destitute families and the charities do play a great role for them.

An official of the NGO Council and co-ordinator of Northern Aid International Mohammed Abdi said the Government failed to follow the right procedure in dealing with suspected organisations. Instead of deregistering the NGOs, said Abdi, the Government opted to paralyse their activities. According to the NGO Council, the body that regulates activities of all local and international organisations operating in Kenya, NGOs found to have flouted the law must be deregistered and action taken on officials.

Influence by America
Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Secretary-General Haji Adan Wachu said the Government was influenced by America to close down the NGOs. Wachu said Muslims did not condone terrorism, adding it was not even known if perpetrators of the August 7, 1998 bomb attack were Muslims.

‘’Muslims do not kill. We do not even know who carried out the attack. Why are Kenyan Muslims paying for sins of others?" asked Wachu. The official said international Muslim NGOs were funded through individual donations and not by terrorists. "If our Government and that of US have any evidence that the individual donors were terrorists or support terrorism, let us be told," he said. "Closing down the NGOs that help the needy is unjust,’’ he added.

As part of a campaign tailored to win the hearts of Muslims, the US has pledged to initiate projects in areas predominantly Muslim, such as Coast and North Eastern Province. US Marines are at the Coast and NEP, where they have been sinking boreholes and constructing classrooms. This includes the Arabia Secondary School in Mandera and improvements at Habaswein Girls’ Secondary School in Wajir District among various other infrastructures. But Supkem(Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims) leaders have seen the gesture by America as too little too late.

No help

‘’Let the United States of Anerica tell us what vacuum they had filled after kicking out the international Muslim NGOs. Muslims do not need help from them,’’ said Wachu.

In July, deputy National Assembly Speaker and Lagdera MP Farah Maalim said he did not know what marines were doing in the area. Wachu said the Government should unconditionally allow back all the Muslim-funded NGOs.