Ex-terror convict appeals for state protection, fears for his life 


Sheikh Guyo Gorsa practsing wadhu during daytime Muslim prayers at Masjid Mosque in Marsabit town on July 1, 2022. 

Photo credit: Jacob Walter I Nation Media Group

Being acquitted of criminal charges by a court would be a great victory for any convict, but not Marsabit madrasa teacher and cleric Sheikh Guyo Gorsa.

Sheikh Gorsa, who was acquitted of terror charges by a Nairobi court in May, is appealing to the state to protect him as he tries to rebuild his life after serving four and a half years at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

“I plead with the state to offer me absolute protection now that I’ve been allowed to integrate with society. Indeed, my life has become a roller coaster of sorts,” he said. 

“I’m drained emotionally and trapped in a downward spiral of endless ‘what-ifs’ and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.”

He said his life is filled with fear, uncertainty and worries about the future, leaving him always feeling “stressed, anxious, and powerless” over the direction of his life.

He was ejected from prison against his wish even after asking a court to allow him to continue being incarcerated instead of going back to his family.

He said his application to continue living at the prison was denied by the court, forcing him to return home.

He spoke to the Nation at his home in Marsabit town, describing how his life had changed after his conviction.

His conviction, he said, was a huge drawback for him and his family as a lot of resources that would have aided them to advance in life were channelled into hiring lawyers and paying other expenses related to his case.

He had left behind a young wife with two children in 2018 - his firstborn who was three years old and the other only six months old – and the family had to depend on well-wishers to survive.

The firstborn, who is autistic, did not attend school for the four years his father was in prison.

Sheikh Gorsa said he was the pillar of his family, having lost both his father and mother, and his siblings relied on him for every important decision.

He has two sisters and four brothers, three of whom have been rendered unproductive by drug and substance abuse.

He does not understand why he was convicted in connection with financing terrorist activities yet he lived a life of squalor. 

He denied owning a bank account, adding that he was paid only Sh10,000 as a cleric and madrasa teacher.

His sister, Hawo Gorsa, narrated with tearful eyes that she had been left with the burden of taking over his brother’s responsibilities in the absence of his brother, who was a father figure to his siblings.

His longtime neighbour, Mzee Orre Moke, said he had known Sheikh Gorsa since he was a child and that he was a polite and straightforward person.

He could not understand why such serious charges were brought against him.

His closest friend, Nassir Ali, appealed to the state to protect the cleric, adding that they were ready to supply security agencies with any information that they needed.

He said they were willing to work with the state to ensure Sheikh Gorsa was protected and given the freedom to go about his daily tasks without any fears.

He heaped praise on the cleric, saying his determination to transform the lives of young people had immensely impacted many who would have drowned in drug abuse in Marsabit town.

“We ask the government to offer protection to Gorsa and we will do anything to collaborate with security agencies to ensure his life is secured. This is one person who has immensely impacted the lives of youths,” Mr Ali said.

Sheikh Gorsa was arrested in 2018 and charged with possession of materials that promoted a terrorist group and for collaborating with Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants, a step that sparked protests and violence among young people in Marsabit town.

He grabbed headlines in May when he refused to leave prison, stating through his lawyer John Khaminwa that he feared for his life if he was freed.

He said he would only be secure if his incarceration was extended, arguing that he knew of people suspected of engaging in terrorism activities who were executed or disappeared immediately after being acquitted.

In June, prison authorities ordered Sheikh Gorsa to go home as they had no orders or communication regarding his application to continue staying in prison.
 

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