Mother of Garissa massacre suspect speaks out

Tanzanian national Rashid Charles Mberesere, who is accused of taking part in the massacre of 148 people at Garissa University College on April 2, 2015, appears in a Nairobi court on April 9, 2015. Rashid lied to his mother that he was going to school before joining Al-Shabaab. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU |   NATION MEDIA GROUP.
Tanzanian national Rashid Charles Mberesere, who is accused of taking part in the massacre of 148 people at Garissa University College on April 2, 2015, appears in a Nairobi court on April 9, 2015. Rashid lied to his mother that he was going to school before joining Al-Shabaab. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Rashid Mberesero lied to his mother he’d gone to school only to join Al-Shabaab.

When Fatma Ali said goodbye to her son in January, she expected to see him again three months later— not as a terrorist suspect but as a brilliant science student coming home for a break.

Little did she know that the next time she would see him would be when the 21-year-old was under arrest in Garissa. His crime: taking part in a terrorist attack that left 148 people dead.

Rashid Charles Mberesero did not see his father for 20 years and had been raised by a single mother since 1994, when his parents separated after endless family squabbles.

But as the Form Five student bid his mother goodbye to return to Bihawana High School in Dodoma, he had a big secret in his heart.


Deep inside, he was already a dangerous terrorist, though his mother saw only a good boy who passed his exams and joined Advanced Secondary School to study Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Four months after the two bade each other farewell, bad news arrived from Kenya.

Rashird had been arrested for allegedly taking part in a terror attack in which 148 people, most of them students, were killed at Garissa University College.

Rashid’s mother was devastated and shocked.

She had hoped to have a doctor, an engineer or anything valuable, as her son—and 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 says.

According to Fatma, the family only realised that Rashid had been arrested through a television broadcast.

“I think he met these terrorists at his school,’’ she says.

She denies, though, that the-21-year-old was a resident of Usangi Village in Mwanga District and clarifies that he was from Gonja and studied at a local secondary school—and passed with flying colours.

“He was selected to join Bihawana High School in Dodoma and came home for his holiday before he said goodbye to me when going back to school,’’ she recalls.

When Kilimanjaro-based transporter Charles Temba finally met his son last year, it was a happy reunion—and supposedly the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.


The two had not seen each other since 1994, when the parents separated. He was pretty young at the time.

Mr Temba admits that Rashird is his biological son, born in 1994, but he had lived with his mother all his life.

“I have never stayed with him for all those years,” he recalls.

This is why, Mr Temba says, when the two were first introduced, he saw a new life, a happy beginning with the son he had not seen for two decades.

But, unknown to Mr Temba, the new-found reunion would soon be shattered—not by separation this time but by his actions as a father.

After the reunion, the first thing Mr Temba did was to convince his son to convert to Christianity.


But Rashid vehemently rejected the idea on the grounds that he could not suddenly ditch Islam, the religion he had followed faithfully for 20 years, ever since he was a child.

Although Rashid, who was arrested in Kenya last week for allegedly taking part in the university massacre, rejected his father’s call, he did attend church three times—but only because his father told him to do so.

After snubbing efforts to get him to convert to Christianity, Rashid’s relationship with his father was strained and he stopped communicating with him.

To Rashird, this was the beginning of a new chapter in his life—joining Al-Shabaab terrorists.

Mr Temba says he was shocked to learn that his son was being accused of taking part in the gruesome attacks masterminded by Al-Shabaab.


The news of Rashid’s arrest and his link to Kilimanjaro came as a shock to most residents of the region, including Mwanga MP and Water Minister Jumanne Maghembe.

Asked how she felt after a resident of her constituency was linked to a terrorist group, Same East MP Anne Kilango Malecela said the news came as a shock.

“I am saddened by this information and I think it is high time our security operatives increased their intelligence because there are bad indicators of terrorism,’’ said Ms Kilango, who is also the Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training.

Maore Ward Councillor Hamad Sempobe described Rashid as a controversial young man who was suspected of using drugs.


But he was quick to point out that he later changed his behaviour and appeared to be a God-fearing man.

Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Leonidas Gama vowed to crack down on networks uspected to have links with Al-Shabaab.

“After receiving all this information, we made a follow-up including his communications in order to establish whether he received his training outside the country or was recruited here,’’ said the RC.

The-21-year-old student was hauled into a Nairobi court on Thursday and the prosecution was allowed to hold him until May 7, 2015.

Rashid is said to have confessed to being a member of the terrorist group.


“Investigations so far have established that the suspects had contact with the attackers,” Prosecutor Daniel Karuri said on Tuesday, adding that preliminary investigations on his call data had revealed that the suspect had been in constant communication with several contacts in Somalia suspected to be Al-Shabaab operatives.

The Tanzanian national is said to have been in his hideout for eight hours before he was arrested.

He is said to have played dead, lying among the bodies, but was arrested later as he hid in the roof of one of the buildings—carrying bombs all the while.

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