Determent not effective in combating terrorism in Kenya

April 4, 2015

As Kenya started picking up speed in the healing of its economy from the Westgate Mall attack in September 2013 that killed 67 people, another battery of terror attacks were launched on the country this week in Garissa University in the Eastern border with Somalia.The attacks took 147 lives although the figures could go up, and reminded whole world that terrorism is a grave problem in Kenya.Once renowned for the hospitality of its peoples, Kenya has experienced an upswing in terrorism these past four years. Records show that since the 2011 when the Kenya Defense Forces joined African Union mission in Somalia there have been about 100 terrorist incidents with more than 300 lives lost as of 31st December 2014.To cope with the problem, the Kenyan government has been implementing a deterrence policy. But does it work? Referring to the data available from Kenyan security authorities and which was published by the local media after the Garissa University attack, it is safe to conclude that it does not.So, what needs to be done to address the matter in East Africa’s largest economy?For starters, cost-benefit analyses commonly practiced by economists might come in handy for the Interior ministry. Applying such analysis to explain terrorism, the number and magnitude of terrorist attacks in Kenya could be predicted by equalizing the incremental, or marginal, costs of undertaking terrorism to the incremental benefits of executing it. The incremental costs are the increasing costs of carrying out additional terrorist attacks, encompassing the costs of raising funds, collecting equipment that include weapons and explosives, recruiting and training terrorist operatives, building networks including but not limited to preparing escape plans, and gathering intelligence especially choosing targets.

Further, the marginal costs of terrorism should also include the costs of operatives being killed or apprehended leading to incarceration, torture, and interrogation that may compromise the terrorist network. Considering all the costs as constraints, it would be harder for Al-Shabaab terrorist group to execute additional terrorist strikes in Kenya and East African region.Research has shown that incremental costs are highly influenced by impetuses propelling the operatives. The operatives could be spurred by external impetuses like redress given to their families and future political positions and the concomitant economic concessions and notoriety stemming from Kenya’s mainstream media as well as their counterparts attention.There are also internal impetuses such as religions, clique mentalities, and political ideologies. In this case, they will undertake terrorist activities steadfastly regardless of any external impetuses being offered even if there is none. With a rise in impetuses, at the same level of marginal costs, more terrorist incidents will occur.So far, Kenyan government’s deterrence policy has intended to increase the marginal costs of terrorism so that the amount of terrorism can be reduced if statistics available in public domain are to be taken into account.The policy has been carried out by setting grim castigations for the perpetrators, and creating conditions including strict security measures that make it difficult for terrorists to accomplish their missions.Though prevention efforts such as heightening security measures in public places like malls, hotels and airports in Mombasa which was recently described as a target for the islamists militia surely increase the marginal costs of terrorism, the efforts may drive terrorists to seek other targets and types of terror, making prevention more costly than planned.

Moreover, in Kenya, the internal impetuses are more dominant than the external ones, so a determent policy that raises the risk and provides harsh chastisement to culprits does not have a significant impact in cutting back terrorism.In fact, in the case of terrorism by Al-Shabaab, where internal impetuses are the only impetuses impelling their actions, determent could be futile as the impetuses overwhelm the marginal costs.Hence, rewards offered by Kenyan government for information leading to the terrorists’ capture would just make them more feel that their struggle is highly regarded by their opponents and worth fighting for, attracting acknowledgement from their peers and supporters and inducing more terrorism in the future.Determent policies with their repressive character, have a tendency to centralize political and economic decisions, enfeebling democratic life, sapping North Eastern Kenya governments’ authority, and limiting economic activities in marginalized areas.Taking the shortcomings of determent into account, Kenya should adopt another policy to complement it. What President Uluru Kenyatta government need is some sort of policy that will lessen the marginal benefits of terrorism, which are the decreasing benefits of launching additional terrorist acts as the targeted society will adapt to terrorist acts, so the incremental effects of them tend to subside.The more centralized political and economic systems, with a limited number of key actors, are easy prey for terrorism because when they can paralyze the actors, there will be not enough parties to substitute for them. So, though determent policy is supposed to reduce the marginal costs of terrorism, it will in turn make Kenya more susceptible to terrorism, increasing the marginal benefits of terrorism.A perusal of the backgrounds of the terror attackers who have wrecked havoc in Kenya can serve to tell us a lot about why there seems to be no shortage of terrorists inside Somalia.

Terrorism is a complex issue that may be connected with one or more of elements like faith, patriotism, globalization, ideology, perception, alienation, belief and poverty.Kenyan youths joining the radicalized groups underlines the vulnerability of the poor to becoming roped into terrorism. Terrorist leaders may be rich, but thats not the case with their foot soldiers as studies coming out of Kenya shows. The fight against terrorism is a multi-pronged battle. Kenya government can draft in more police and troops, boost intelligence capabilities, increase antiterrorism funding, set up special antiterror units, purchase state-of-the-art weapons, provide specialist training, and even permit foreign donors to assist Muslim religious schools in North Eastern Kenya and Coastal areas two of the country’s most affected areas but these are all only part of the story.It is not enough for Kenyan government to be good at fighting terrorism physically, it must also be good at fighting poverty, perverted ideologies in areas like Mombasa and Kwale, exploitation of religion for short-term political purposes like has been the case in Mandera, corruption that this past week saw stepping aside of cabinet secretaries and other government officials, and attempts to divert Muslims from the true teachings of Islam in areas like Eastleigh and Lamu, among others things.This represents a tough challenge for authorities in Kenya. With its vast coastline, most of which is unguarded, it is not hard to see that Kenya is looking at a long war before the terrorists are defeated.Among the various challenges, poverty is particularly prominent as more than millions of Kenyans who live on less than US$1 a day, which means below the poverty line.Thus, close to half Kenya’s total population of 40 million people are virtually destitute.So behind every small step on the road to victory against the terrorists, poverty will always be lurking in the background, like a snake ready to strike at any time.

After poverty, the next major challenges are corruption that has been synonymous with Kenya and the spreading of false Islamic teachings. Corruption is indirectly responsible for rampant poverty in Kenya. Unfortunately, President Uhuru Kenyatta has a poor record in this area during his first two year in government.Unlike terrorism, corruption is committed silently, far from the gaze of the public. Often, but not always, it is committed in luxurious office buildings in Lavington, Kileleshwa, Westlands, Kilimani, Milimani, Muthaiga, Kitisuru,Karen among other posh areas of Nairobi and in high places. It is a silent killer responsible for keeping millions of Kenyan poor. Its effects are no less serious than terrorism. It is silent terrorism that is very difficult to eradicate.The fact is, no single government since Kenya gained its independence in 1963 has ever succeeded in uprooting corruption.Eradicating the evil of corruption will entail stopping the gravy train for those in positions of power and authority something that could well prove next to impossible. With corruption still commonplace, mass poverty will continue and the terrorists will have no shortage of new recruits from the lower rungs of Kenyan society.Muslim leaders in Kenya have long been saying that Islam has never taught its followers to kill innocent people. Since fewer Kenyans are Muslim, it is time for the people and the government to work together to rid their country of the scourge of deviant Islam. The pledge given by Muslim leaders from the north Eastern region and broadcasted by International media outlets in the aftermath of Garissa University attack to work to this end is a good start.

The window of opportunity that has now opened must not be allowed to slam shut.President Kenyatta’s administration should concentrate on policies that can reduce the marginal benefits of terrorism. What the East African country need are policies that really decentralize political and economic powers like their recently adopted new constitution’s devolved government structures which has be done by truly embracing democracy and improving the workings of market economy in such areas as North Eastern Kenya.In more devolved systems, when terrorism strikes, there will be many parties to substitute for the crippled actors and resume activities, decreasing terrorism’s marginal benefits and thus making it less appealing, as it will have minimal effect on political and economic stability.Therefore, the Kenyan government must understand that relying only on determent will not stop terrorism in the country which has seen significant losses in tourism sector due to falling numbers of tourists as a result of security threat posed by Islamist group Al-Shabaab and that it merely delays but not stopping it.Garissa University attack suggests that terrorism in Kenya is becoming invincible and unpredictable as the country’s cabinet secretary for Internal Security was quoted as saying in the Kenyan media. Now, the targets are not just churches, foreigners, moderate Muslims and sect members, but also schools.In recent years, Kenya has been rocked by a series of bombings staged by the regional terror network Al-Shabaab. Relying too much on the state apparatus such as police to arrest the perpetrators and masterminds of this cruel assault and impose the prison sentence on them is far from adequate. The approach should at least entails full implementation of new security intelligence bill due to Kenyan public potshots at its toothlessness.

Continued violence, threats befalling Kenya have been clear signs of its slow counterterrorism drive. Both the national assembly and Senate as well as the government should arrive at meeting of minds and scrap controversial points.Monitoring, for instance, is necessary only to gather information on suspicious individuals and designate particular networks or organizations as terrorist groups when conditions are met. Kenya’s National intelligence agency NIS must not lose its fight against both physical and symbolic terrorism campaigns.Additional funds for intelligence agencies for their work will help the government work more effectively.However, the control of the intelligence organization by both parliaments and civil society is no compromise. Ignoring arbitrary and extensive monitoring of targeted individuals or groups means an act of infringement upon one’s privacy, which is unconstitutional.The scrutiny of citizens’ phone conversations, email correspondence and articles posted on Internet community boards, by police, the prosecution and the state spy agency should not be intensified just because a series of terror attacked have rocked the country recently.The police and state spy agency NIS must not look for scapegoats and become distrustful of Muslim groups, but work with them instead. The terror attack on Churches in Kenya strongly indicates that Islam is not compatible with terrorism, but is being hijacked.Defeating terrorism is not possible using only a traditional security approach. All steps must be taken, including the curbing of dangerous ideologies that help spread the message of terrorism to hearts and minds. Hence, antiterrorism efforts must involve civil society groups, in the context of resisting the spread of terror ideology.Many groups in Kenya that are vulnerable to such ideologies can be infiltrated and changed only by organizations, rather than the police.

While acknowledging that Islam is not terrorism and terrorism is not Islam, longer-term solutions can be oriented toward ostracizing radicalism and promoting tolerance.Strong and continued rejection of such ideas in mosques and schools should be carried out extended to all places of worship. Mosques and Islamic boarding schools must be made front lines in the battle against terrorism.Didn’t Prophet Muhammad say that any Muslims inciting hatred against non-Muslims were not his followers?It is crucial for Kenya Police Service to get groups of people involved in combating acts of terrorism. The Kenyan police and universities both public and private should hold regular training and meetings involving youth organizations, school teachers and neighborhood leaders on how terrorists act and move within society.People may take initiatives to be more vigilant in monitoring their areas for suspicious activities through intensifying their community-based security systems introduced by President Uhuru Kenyatta called Nyumba Kumi -swahili for ten family houses- to deter terrorists from establishing base camps.However, it is not necessarily about being aware of new faces in their neighborhoods, but also old residents acting suspiciously or limiting their interactions with their neighbors.Increasing the prosperity of the Kenyan people is major key to fighting terrorism.The longer-term fight against terrorism, however, will be to continue economic growth and to improve living standards in areas like Garissa, Mandera and Wajir.If the poor and lower income groups, which are the main recruiting pools for terrorists, see that they have a bright future and hope, they will be less likely to be attracted to the militant doctrine. Poverty is a weakness that terrorists are only too eager to exploit.It is no secret that terror attackers are generally from a low-income background. Besides executing the hard approach of using the security to combat terrorists, the soft approach of offering a better future for the poor is equally important in efforts to root out the menace of terrorism in Kenya.

Contador Harrison