Terrorism in simple terms is the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. In this century, terrorism or acts of terrorism have become a global challenge. Nearly every continent or in some situations,countries are facing the massive danger posed by terror groups.
In Asia, there are the Taliban, Al Qaeda and now, the latest lethal and unforgiving group known as Islamist State In Syria (ISIS). In Africa, we have Boko Haram operating in Nigeria, The Touregs in Mali and Nothern parts of Africa and in Kenya, we are in constant fight with the Al Shabaab.
Kenya has experienced damages that cannot be quantified under the arms of terrorists. The attacks date back to the Kenyatta regime where terrorists known as The Shiftas staged a seccesionist movement. They however met with a brutal and ruthless government force and with time disappeared into the thin air. In late 90s and specifically 1998 August, the frequency and proportion of terrorism increased when the bombing of USA embassy building took place. This marked the beginning of vicious terror attacks. Countless grenade and sporadic attacks on government security installations like police posts increased.
The scale of attacks consequently increased in the year 2013 where a number of terrorists stormed the West Gate Mall and held people hostage and shot indiscriminately at the innocent and unarmed civilians. Mpeketoni attack later followed and again, innocent citizens had to pay the price. Before dust settled, another vicious attack was launched at Garrisa University where terrorists attacked and killed atleast 147 students. One police officer also lost his life.
In between the highlighted unfortunate events, there were other attacks on Kenyans ranging from attacks on security installations to abduction of foreign nationals. These prompted the Kenyan government to launch an incursion in Somalia under the name “Operation Linda Nchi” to deal with the millitants accordingly.
To understand this vice therefore, it is better to unravel the causes or reasons why acts of terrorism are rampant in Kenya and ‘Horn of Africa’. A matter which led to Kenya being refferred to ‘Hotbed of Terror’ by the Cable News Network thereby causing an online uproar from Kenyans on Twitter AKA KOT. One and the most flaunted reason worldwide is ‘Jihadism’. This, according to Islamic religion is the war against non believers otherwise known as ‘Kafirs’. This ideology has led to massive exodus by muslim youths to join Al Shabaab so as to fight the ‘Holy War’. The reward for those who die fighting this war is allegedly 12 virgins and a free entry into paradise. Those who die fighting this war are branded as matyrs or ‘mujaheedins’.
This exodus to join other millitants has been fuelled by what is refferred to as Radicalization. This is basically feeding the minds of people with untrue and baseless teachings with an intention of causing hatred towards other members of another group. This has been attributed to rogue Imams and Sheikhs who take advantage of hopeless and jobless youths to encourage them to join Alshabaab. The government, while fighting this menace has been criticised for targetting the alleged Imams and Sheikhs and killing them without giving them an opportunity to face trial in a court of law. In his documentary ‘Wagigisi wa Mauaji’ Mohammed Ali of Jicho Pevu brought onto the surface how these Imams have been killed by government forces leaving their families hopeless and without bread winners. He shows how the government committs extra judicial killings without any respect to human rights.
Moha presents the government as incapable of dealing with the controversial Imams like Sheikh Aboud Rogo and Sheikh Makaburi and therefore set up a hit squad mainly made up of GSU officers from Reecce and specially trained at eliminating targets precisely, to kill the suspects.
His claims have also been supported by a documentary by Al Jazeera dubbed ‘Inside Kenya’s Death Squads’ where they further point an accusing finger at the western nations like United Kingdom, The USA and Israel say that they offer training and funding these squads. Al Jazeera further claims that Kenya is used to fight a proxy war and these nations are only involved in training and gathering of intelligence.
The “Operation Linda Nchi” that was launched by the Kenya government in Somalia has also been blamed for the increased terror attacks in Kenya. During the West Gate Mall terror attack, victims were allegedly being told by the terrorists that they are killing kenyans as a way of retaliation since kenyan forces are also killing their brothers and sisters in Somalia. This was clearly presented in a documentary by HBO that focussed on West Gate Mall attack. These claims were futher supported by Dennis Okari in his documentary ” Children of a Lesser God” where he says that girls were cheated into believing that terrorists don’t kill women and when they came out of their hiding places, they were sprayed with bullets mercilessly. Dennis further allege that there were some students who were spared for being muslims. This was also witnessed during the West Gate Mall terror attack as presented by HBO. A parent to a student was also forced to hear her daughter being killed after the terrorists called him telling him to tell President Uhuru to withdraw KDF from Somalia.
Hopelessness, unemployment and poverty have also been cited as reasons behind the recent surge in terror incidents as youths, because of unemployment decide to join Al Shabaab. They are cheated into believing that they will be given money. Unemployment is a major factor because you may find that an individual has the required academic qualifications but because of massive tribalism and corruption, he/she may not find a job thereby making him develop feelings of recentment towards his/her country. Terrorists take advantage of such situations.
Politicians are also to blame since some of them sabotage government efforts to deal with terrorism. To fight this vice, there is need for collective support and unity but you find that when some operations are launched to fight or fish out terrorists from locals, politicians come out guns blazing saying that their people are unfairly targetted and accuse the government of violation of human rights and ethnic profiling. A case in study is when the government rounded up illegal migrants in Eastleigh and took them to Kasarani Stadium for verification of their documents. The politicians form Somali community cried foul and accused the government of failing to confront real issues and instead resorting to ethnic profiling and targeting members from their community.
To fight terrorism therefore, certain things need to be done. One, the media must come out and start avoiding the use of stereotypical words and use that plartform to foster unity and harmony and speak firmly against terrorism and radicalization. For a long time, the media has been accused of using terms like “Kenyan with Somali origin” to refer to criminals and terrorists. It is therefore time for the media to present these terrorists as they are and not drscribe them using a particular community. Even words like “Kenyan Somali” should not be used since the bottomline is that we are all kenyans and should not be identified with our origins or tribes
The citizens should also do their part of seeing one another as a brother and a sister and live in harmony. Incidents like getting out of the bus when a Somali or a muslim boards only fuels recentment among us. It makes the victims feel unwanted. Even looking at Somalis differently and suspiciously should be discouraged. In the documentary “Pillars of Terror”, a woman narrates how a person called her an Al Shabaab when something, allegedly a motobike’s tyre exploded behind them. Such acts should not happen.
Finally, the government has a very massive and crusial role to play. First, it should close all corruption loop-holes e.g bribe taking at the border which makes it easier for criminals to sneak into Kenya without being noticed. Identity Cards should also be given freely and without discrimination so that genuine kenyans of somali origin can have them. Cases of denial of ID cards or payment of bribes to obtain them should be dealt with since once someone has been denied the card, there is no way he/she can be employed. This further connects to the creation of job opportunities and using fair creteria when recruiting employees so that even the marginalised communities can have equal opportunities when it comes to employment.
The government should also scale up security patrols and improve security in areas that are prone to terror attacks like malls, learning institutions, government offices and bus stations. Improving security will therefore depend on the number of security personnel and the skills plus the quality of weapons they have. This means that the goverbment should employ more security officers and re-train the current ones on terrorism since the face of terrorism has changed over time and then give them adequate machinery. A case where the Reecce officers took 7 hours to reach Garissa University because of lack a helicopter should not be witnessed again.