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The troubled life of Aboud Rogo's widow

By David Ochami | September 16th 2016
Haniya Said Sagar, wife to the slain Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo after being presented at the Mombasa Court (Photo: Kelvin Karani)

Mombasa, Kenya: Listening to Haniya Said Saggar defend her late husband Sheikh Aboud Rogo reminds older readers of Yoko Ono's steadfast defense of the late John Lennon until his death and after.

Lennon who co-founded The Beatles lived a complicated life, filled with drugs and women and ended up dying by the bullet. Haniya, an articulate woman with a heart of steel and intellectual ability defended Rogo's honour in life and death and came close to death for that.

On August 27 2012 when her husband was killed by assassins she was shot in the left leg and left for dead and remains wounded to date.

Rogo's murder, two weeks after the US and UN had placed him on a sanctions list for alleged terrorist funding unleashed four days of rioting, murder, pillage and arson across Mombasa.

Less than 24 hours later Rogo's unwashed body was buried by supporters at a local cemetery. Supporters believed they were justified to bury it unwashed to demonstrate he had achieved martyrdom by dying violently in defence of Islam.

Mainstream muslim preachers who lived in fear of Rogo criticized the burial claiming his supporters had misunderstood what is jihad.

Four months later when she spoke to The Standard Haniya insisted her husband had achieved martyrdom.

"I consider him a martyr because the [Muslim] religion says anyone who dies in an oppressive death is a martyr," said Haniya as she defended her husband's complicated life and violent sermons.

Later Haniya told a journalist that she had refused to re-marry to dedicate her life to "teaching madrassa (Islamic school)," a job she has been doing alongside small scale farming in Kanamai since she became a widow.

Today Haniya find herself in trouble with the law again with police claiming she may have inspired last Sunday's terrorist carnage on Central police station in Mombasa, apparently, through Tasnim Yakub Abdullahi Farah who, detectives claim she communicated with before the attack.

Tasnim is one of the three women who perished in the attack and her body lies unclaimed at the Coast General Hospital.

Following Rogo's death Haniya remained out of the limelight for just four months. She was back in the news when police raided her home in Kanamai to arrest her then 17 year old son Khubaib.

On November 15 2012 Haniya protested loudly when Khubaib and Swaleh Abdi Majid, who had recently, married Rogo's daughter Rumaisa, were arrested, a day after the wedding for allegedly, plotting a terrorist attack on Makupa police station. Haniya told The Standard that she believed the state had a conspiracy to decimate her family.

Haniya would later testify before a judicial inquest formed by the government to investigate her husband's death after initial resistance in the belief the probe was a state stunt to sow confusion instead of finding the truth. After more than two years of testimony and stonewalling the inquest turned up nothing.

This has been Haniya's life since 1991 when she married Rogo, an eloquent man she told The Standard she met when both were students at the College of Islamic Studies in Kisauni in Mombasa.

In a past interview Haniya said Rogo's problems with the Kenyan law began in 1992 when he identified with the defunct Islamic Party of Kenya as an activist within Mombasa through to 1997 following the August 7 [1997] terrorist attack on US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi which was claimed by Al Qaida "when FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) and Kenya policemen arrested us."

Regarding Rogo's arrest after the US embassy bombing Haniya said he was arrested after state claims he had hosted Mohamed Haroon Fazul who the US had identified as the Al Qaida mastermind of the August 7 1997 attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

The alleged link between Rogo and Fazul was that the later was married to Rogo's cousin.

More trouble for Haniya and her family followed when Rogo was arrested following the November 2002 terrorist attack on Israeli properties in Kikambala, Kilifi and attempted shooting down of an Israeli airliner which was also blamed in Fazul and Al Qaida.

Rogo was never convicted for these and other charges leading Haniya to believe the Kenyan state harboured some hidden vendetta against him.

"All these claims were trumped [up] because the Government never convicted my husband in any court of law," Haniya told The Standard early 2013 when she advanced a theory that the state also invented myths that Rogo was a rich man capable of financing terrorism.

She believed that the stated "wanted to make him [look] rich so as to kill him" and added that as early as 2003 Rogo's family knew that he would be killed some day.

Haniya's hypotheses were not entirely misplaced for the state's behavior toward her husband was often baffling.

For example in spite of charging him for terrorism and weapons ownership in January 2012 and claims that Rogo had travelled abroad to plot crime, the government of Kenya still found reason to renew his passport mid 2012.

Family members indicate that Rogo applied normally for this renewal like any other Kenyan. Other reports indicate that, for most of the time the Kenyan state knew about Rogo's visits to Tanzania where his family had connections. Haniya added that Rogo's tours to Tanzania and the Middle East were known to the authorities.

She produced Rogo's documents including his first and last passports. The documents showed her husband was born in 1969 and received his first passport on May 21, 2001 which expired on May 22, 2010 and a new one awarded mid- 2012.

During these interviews Haniya made no attempt to conceal Rogo's travels and even filled in gaps that journalists thought they had found in some of the papers. For example she admitted that in 1999 Rogo travelled to Tanzania using "a temporary passport" and denied state claims that her husband had more than one name or identity documents.

But she admitted during his many appearances in court that Rogo was often "charged under several names and titles" for unknown reasons but which never ended in a single conviction.

Rogo never used his new passport, going by the lack of markings, stamps and writings in it.

Why did Sheikh Rogo travel to Tanzania in 1999? "We were trying to engage in business but we failed," according to Haniya who alleged in the 2013 interview following years of state torment the family was impoverished forcing the couple to settle in Dar es Salaam [for sometime] where Rogo, tried his hand in coconut trade, a butchery and restaurant but returned to Mombasa when the businesses collapsed.

Haniya demonstrated that Rogo travelled out of Africa just once to perform the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca between February 18 and March 2002. The expired passport proved this and Haniya said she accompanied him to the pilgrimage.

Meanwhile the expired passport also shows that Rogo frequently travelled to a Tanzanian town called Horohoro, between 2002 and 2008 by road through Lunga Lunga border crossing in Kwale and through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

She also travelled to Tanzania several times in Rogo's company. One significant trip was in 2010 when she went to Bagamoyo for six months. On this trip, Rogo escorted his wife and family up to the Lunga Lunga crossing, according to Haniya who said she took this trip to be close to one of her students at the Islamic school in Kanamai [who apparently had relocated to Tanzania] who "requested special tuition from me and I was in Bagamoyo for six months".

Rogo's widow often describes him as a man who was friendly to everyone but who was misunderstood by many people including some muslim preachers who accused him of being a "lone ranger in religious circles" and in 2013 said the family received reports of a plot on him for the first time in 2003.

In spite of the threats Haniya believed Rogo had no intention or reason to flee his home or country because he was fulfilling his duties as a good muslim.

"In 2003, someone warned us that he will be killed but he said he will not run away.... "He felt that as a religious leader he had a duty to speak out," she said.

Besides physical injury in the shooting that claimed her husband and several arrests, Haniya lamented that she had suffered humiliation and impoverishment that forced her to delay her studies for two decades.

And she has seen poverty before starting in the early 1990s when her husband dropped out of his bachelors degree in Islamic studies for lack of money in 1991 and they married shortly afterwards.

She also abandoned her studies and returned to conclude the degree course in 2011.

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