Friends of Africa International® wishes to clarify statements made in recent international news reports pertaining to Westgate Mall terrorist attack suspect, Samantha Lewthwaite, who claimed to be affiliated with a charity named Friends of Africa International in order to gain re-entry into Kenya: She is not now, and never has been an employee or associate of Friends of Africa International.
According to these news reports, Lewthwaite assumed a false identity in order to deceive border guards, and claimed she was an aid worker entering Kenya to volunteer for the charity. Also known as the “White Widow” Jihadist, Lewthwaite is wanted in connection with a number of terrorist attacks she has allegedly masterminded since 2007, when her husband killed himself in a suicide bomb attack.
“We take great pride in the fact that we have served for greater good in Africa for more than 25 years. It was alarming to learn that one of Interpol’s most wanted criminals has falsely claimed to be affiliated with another charity called Friends of Africa,” said Bonnie Bishop, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Friends of Africa International. Currently in Kenya overseeing construction of a medical clinic to serve Pokot people in a remote region of northwestern Kenya, Bishop was among the first to become aware of the story, which broke on June 5, 2014 in The Star, a major paper in Nairobi. Since then, the story has appeared in multiple news outlets in the U.K., Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. “Samantha Lewthwaite is not, and has never been connected with, employed by or affiliated with our Friends of Africa International organization.”
Some reports, such as an article published in the U.K.’s online outlet, TheMirror.co.uk, have declared that the charity Lewthwaite claimed to be working for is an Ireland-based organization called Friends of Africa International. After receiving a number of calls from constituents, Bishop and other Board members felt it was necessary to prevent any further confusion by issuing a public statement clarifying that Lewthwaite has no affiliation with the U.S. and Kenya-based Friends of Africa International organization whatsoever.
The Ireland-based Friends of Africa International also published a statement on their website declaring that they also have no affiliation with Lewthwaite or any other terrorist organization.
“Unfortunately, a number of NGOs have been cited for serving as fronts for terror organizations, which places all nonprofit organizations under public scrutiny,” said James R. True, Friends of Africa International’s Executive Board President who has also served as the organization’s general counsel 1989. “We want to reassure our donors and the public at large that we condemn such activity and abhor misuse of nonprofit organization charters, and that we have absolutely no affiliation with Lewthwaite or any other criminal individuals or organizations.”
In reference to the tragic September 2013 terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Bishop added, “Because so many Nairobi Board members and friends were personally impacted by the devastating event, it was especially disheartening to see the name of our organization even mentioned in the same story as its perpetrator. We hope she is caught, tried and incarcerated for her horrific crimes in the very near future.”