May 27, 2019

Terrorism and the state of security in Kenya

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The state of Security in Kenya has significantly improved over the last decade. Our security forces have managed to pacify most of Kenya’s internal threats that included outlawed sects like Mungiki and Kamjesh. The influence of gangs has also been sufficiently diminished save for petty thieves and pickpockets. However, the biggest challenge so far for the Kenyan security forces has been unprecedented aggression from Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab. After continuous attacks from US, AMISOM and SNA forces, the group seems to be morphing into smaller bands (cells) that now conduct sporadic attacks in scattered locations making them hard to subdue.
While most Al Shabaab militants are based in Somalia, those that conduct attacks within Kenyan borders are increasingly of Kenyan ancestry. This implies an infiltration of radical teachings into Kenyan cities and towns that have allowed for recruitment of youth into Al Shabaab. The situation is not helped by the planned military draw-down in 2021 that has left experts confused on what next for Somalia and the anti-terrorism war worldwide.
For over 10 years, AMISOM has been a champion against terror in Somalia, but the mission is now exiting without clear plans on how to secure Somalia thereafter. This development is likely to have a huge bearing on regional security, possibly relinquishing territory back to Al Shabaab and according them autonomy in their operations. Somalia as a country seems a far cry from setting the right foundations for an efficient federal government, let alone stable military and police forces. With the above considered, it is time for a practical and comprehensive approach to security in Kenya.
Frivolous ideas like arming security guards, as embarrassing as they are, should not form the cornerstone of Kenya’s anti-terror conversation. The solution lies within communities in the villages, urban estates, and in the streets with empowering individuals of influence that can make a difference. This include, musicians, dancers, sportsmen and women, artists, youth leaders etc. Military and intelligence warfare should merely boost this line of approach and not form the basis. A viable immediate response to terrorism that the government has already engaged in is fighting corruption and entrenching community policing.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is really trying to meet its mandate and while most of its activities remain classified, it is a common suggestion that the agency does not get involved in kinetic operations. But NIS should go beyond just playing the advisory role to carrying out operations within and without Kenya much like renowned agencies such as KGB of Russia, Mossad of Israel, MI6 in the United Kingdom, and America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Kenya can have multiple Intelligence services to include one involved in covert overseas operations in support of the country’s security.
All in all, the war against terrorism has to be fought from within. It seems like a tall order for Kenya considering the current state of patriotism and nationalism compared to a country like Ethiopia.
‘Rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love’ – Albert Camus
The above statement suggests a possible backlash by individuals who for one reason or another feel disenfranchised in their own country, a ray of hope that things can and will change if the lens is directed to the right problem.

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