OpED: Investing in Africa’s Next-generation of Leaders

Speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, dosage price officers from four units of Kenya’s counter-terrorism strategy admitted the police assassinate suspects on government orders.

An Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) officer said the order comes from Kenya’s National Security Council: “It comprises of the President, visit web Deputy President, more about Chief of the Defence Forces, Inspector General of Police, National Security Intelligence Service Director, Cabinet Secretary of Interior, and the Principal Secretary Interior. Any decision is made within that club of people.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Security Council members denied running an extrajudicial killing programme.

Police eliminations, according to the ATPU officer, could run into the hundreds every year: “Day in, day out, you hear of eliminating suspects. We have the police itself. We have special units like GSU. So not a total, but you can say about almost 500.”

The officers admitted to personally killing suspects.  The General Service Unit (GSU) Recce Company officer said: “Since I was employed, I’ve killed over 50. Definitely, I do become proud because I’ve eliminated some problems.”

The officers said Kenya’s weak judicial system forces them to resort to assassinations, as the police have failed to produce strong enough evidence to prosecute terror suspects, with only one conviction recorded.

“If the law cannot work, there’s another option… Eliminate him,” said the GSU Recce Company officer.

Abubaker Shariff Ahmed was a controversial Muslim radical known as Makaburi. Despite being charged under Kenya’s terrorism laws, he was never convicted.


In April he was gunned down outside a Mombasa court. Human rights groups claim he was one of 21 Muslim radicals allegedly killed by police since 2012.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, the officers confirmed this for the first time.

“Makaburi was killed by the police,” said one officer. “That execution was planned in Nairobi by very top, high-ranking police officers and government officials.”

Al Jazeera exclusively obtained confidential police reports, which purport to show Makaburi had extensive links to Somali militant group al Shabaab and had planned and financed bombings in Kenya.


The officers claim the intelligence, which drives the government’s “elimination programme,” was supplied by Western security agencies.

The GSU Recce Company officer said: “Once they give us the information, they know what they have told us. It is ABCD: ‘Mr. Jack’ is involved in ‘such and such’ a kind of activity. Tomorrow he’s no longer there. We have worked. Definitely the report that you gave us has been ‘worked on’.”

A Kenyan National Police spokesperson refused to comment on the allegations.

According to the officers, Britain provides training, equipment and intelligence to the units,

Israel conducts more specific training, according to a GSU Radiation Unit officer: “We get some instructors from Israel,” he said. “How to eliminate. Actually it’s one of the training.”

Mark Ellis, the head of the International Bar Association, warned the alleged complicity of these countries could violate international law.

Ellis said: “It’s clear based on these interviews that there’s at least prima facie evidence to suggest that these third party countries are involved and therefore they all have responsibility to investigate.

“We should stop providing any type of assistance or training to police units in Kenya until there is a clear change… in how the Kenyan authorities deal with suspects.”

Britain and Israel denied involvement and the UK Foreign Office said it had “raised concerns” with Kenya over the “serious allegations.”
But the continent – and indeed the world – is also facing critical challenges.  The tragedy of diseases like Ebola.  The ravages of climate change.  The threat of food insecurity.  Civil unrest from Burkina Faso to Central African Republic.  Widespread unemployment.

But there is another side to the story. A story of Africa’s shining youth, sickness set in communities, store libraries and labs on university campuses across the continent.

And it’s a story that’s gaining recognition among educators from around the world as they chart the next phase of the global movement of higher education, buy civic engagement and social responsibility at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference this week.

Universities are not only economic drivers of their communities, but powerful sources of innovation, new thinking and influence. They are central to movements and causes that seek to better the world.  Much like the Talloires Network, The MasterCard Foundation believes that universities do not exist in isolation from society, nor from the communities in which they are located. They are, as Nature magazine writes, “beacons of social justice.”

And more than that, universities are tapping into the energy of young people. Energy that they are already using to make a difference in the world.

But can universities aspire to more than just educating students?  Can we develop the right kind of leaders – transformative leaders who are the embodiment of courage, altruism, empathy and resilience?

We know that education is a tangible, effective path out of poverty for families and communities, and particularly for girls and young women. The longer a young person stays in school, the more they can expect to earn and contribute to the growth of their country’s economy.

Just one extra year of secondary schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10 percent, raising average GDP growth by 3.37 percent.

In contrast, it is easy to think of leadership as intangible. Its effect on how we live is difficult to prove. But we know the big problems of our time won’t be solved without it.

So how can universities harness the energy and optimism of Africa’s youth to develop these transformative leaders?


First, we must strive to ensure that universities are inclusive and representative of the communities they serve.

We must ensure that we provide those who are so often left behind– young women, promising young students from economically disadvantaged communities and ethnic minorities – with the opportunities to take their place in the world.  Diversity, gender and income equality will bring alternative views and ways of thinking into our institutions.

We must also strive to design programs that meet these students’ needs by understanding the challenges and contexts of their lives.

Nonduduzo Ndlovu, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar at the University of Pretoria, recently wrote about the challenges that so often force bright young minds to give up on their schooling, “It is not that they are incapable, it’s because of the environment they grew up in.

Every person comes to this world with a certain ability or talent – we need an educational system that will help Scholars to discover and nurture their abilities, trigger creativity and stimulate innovation.”

Finally, we must recognize and nurture young Africans’ sense of purpose and deep desire to improve the lives of others.

A number of institutions – such as Arizona State University, Ashesi University, the University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town – are already working to change the way in which we think about education and how we shape transformative leaders.

Their efforts are paying dividends as their students contribute new solutions to old problems.

Like Kpetermeni Siakor at Ashesi University College, who is helping health authorities in his native Liberia to understand the technology gaps in the country’s healthcare system in order to stop Ebola in its tracks.

Or Miranda Nyathi at the University of Cape Town, a young woman from South Africa’s townships who founded Mathmahelp, a DVD series designed to raise test scores and increase college admissions in low-income school districts.

And Fatty Al Ansar, who grew up in northern Mali’s refugee camps and who would dress as a boy to secretly attend class, but today studies human rights at Trinity College in the United States.  And who, brick by brick, is hard at work building a school for her country’s nomad girls.

The MasterCard Foundation is betting on the transformative power of Africa’s next-generation leaders. We believe these next-generation leaders will mobilize others to act, correct inequities and inspire others to action.

Young innovators like Kpetermeni, Miranda and Fatty will spark ideas and set us on the path of finding new solutions to old problems.

By Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. 

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