Kenya needs holistic approach to terrorism

January 24, 2016

Again and again, bombs have exploded in Somalia. Over a week ago, Kenya Defense Force in El Adde camp were attacked by Al Shabaab according to Government of Kenya. At the time of writing this post, the number of KDF soldiers who died remains unknown as some of them are missing, others were kidnapped and held hostage by the attackers according to Defense Ministry in the country.This latest attack suggests that terrorism in Somalia is becoming invincible and unpredictable. Last year, bombs were sent to various places targeting individuals. Now, the targets are not just foreigners, moderate Somalis and sect members, but also military installations for peace keeping missions in the war torn horn of Africa country. In recent years, Kenya has been rocked by a series of bombings staged by the regional terror network Al Shabaab , including Westgate attack in Westlands area in Kenya’s capital Nairobi that killed 68 people. Relying too much on the state apparatus such as police to arrest the perpetrators and masterminds of this cruel assault and impose the harsh sentence on them is far from adequate.Kenya’s approach should at least entails the urgent importance of more robust intelligence gathering.Continued violence across the country including tribal clashes, bomb threats and suicide bombing befalling the East African country have been clear signs of its slow counterterrorism drive. 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 Services, a well funded organization must not lose its fight against both physical and symbolic terrorism campaigns. Perhaps, additional funds for intelligence agencies for their work will help the Kenya government work more effectively.However, the control of the intelligence organization by Kenya’s legislature 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 as per the country’s 2010 constitution that has so far seen the country make progress to a fully devolved government.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 attacks has rocked Kenya recently.I also think the police and state spy agency must not look for scapegoats and become distrustful of Muslim groups in the coastal and North Eastern Kenya, but work with them instead. The terror attack on a military installations in Somalia strongly indicates that Islam is not compatible with terrorism, but is being hijacked.Even buffoons know that defeating terrorism is not possible using only a traditional security approach that many experts believes is the reason why Kenya is a soft target of the terrorists from Somalia.

Kenya Flag
Kenya Flag

All steps must be taken, including the curbing of dangerous ideologies that help spread the message of terrorism to hearts and minds especially in the coastal region where dozens of terror cells exist according to recent reports released by Inspector General of Police office.Hence, antiterrorism efforts in Kenya 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 like the Muslim 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.From the limited knowledge about Islam that I have, Prophet Muhammad teachings say that any Muslims inciting hatred against non-Muslims were not his followers.Another view is that it is crucial for Kenya Police Service to get groups of people involved in combating acts of terrorism. It could borrow a leaf from its western neighbor, Uganda, where the Ugandan Police Force has done an fantastic job in combating terror cells and dismantling them.Those who follow Uganda’s Police actions on dealing with terror, will agree with me that Kenya can learn aplenty from its closest ally in the region.

Kenya Police Service and Universities both private and public across the country should hold regular training and meetings involving youth organizations, school teachers and neighborhood leaders on how terrorists act and move within society. Kenyan public need to be introduced to a “nomad strategy”, which is used by terrorists to keep themselves in disguise. People may take initiatives to be more vigilant in monitoring their areas for suspicious activities through intensifying their community-based security systems, Nyumba Kumi(Swahili for ten houses) initiative announced by the country’s president after the Westgate attack,a model that has worked well for United Republic of Tanzania for decades, to deter terrorists from establishing base camps in Kenya.However,Nyumba Kumi should not be necessarily about being aware of new faces in their neighborhoods, but also old residents acting suspiciously or limiting their interactions with their neighbors.Kenyan government need to increase the prosperity of the people who play a major role in fighting terrorism. The longer-term fight against terrorism, however, will be to continue economic growth and to improve living standards. Corruption in Kenya is at all time high according to local media and that has left millions of unemployed youths more disgruntled than ever before. If the poor and lower income groups in Kenya, 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 as demonstrated by tens of terror cells in North Eastern and Coastal regions of the country.It is no secret that terrorists 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, Africa’s ninth largest economy.

Contador Harrison