How Kenya Is Helping Al Shabaab Objective
By attributing every criminal grenade attack to Al Shaabab, Kenya is contributing massively to the intentions of the Al Qaeda linked Al Shabaab. As a terrorist group, Al Shabaab requires publicity, recognition and they need their actions to be televised live. Surely, Kenya has fallen to this pitfall, as it vocally attributes the recent grenade attacks to al Shabaab. Sometimes even the al Shabaab themselves do not claim responsibility but Kenya still continues helping in building the reputation of Al Shabaab by associating Al Shabaab with activities that are at best criminal. As these pronouncements benefit Al Shabaab, it is likely to reach a point when Shabaab will be calling the shots and at that time, Kenya would have lost the war on terror.
Attributing recent attacks is Kenya to Al Shabaab is a misplaced search for truth. Statements related to Al Shabaab are fueling their propaganda machines, which are taking credit for what they have not planned. Terrorists plan and hit big targets after studying them well. Comparing recent Al Shabaab related suicide bombings in Mogadishu, what has been happening in Nairobi or Wajir are child play. Last October, In Mogadishu, suicide bomber at education ministry killed over 70 students and their parents who had gathered to learn about scholarship to study abroad.
In 9/11 incident, terrorists brought down World Trade Centre, the commercial landmark of the US, killed over 3000 people and left the whole world terrified. See the magnitude?
Suicide bomber recently killed 90 Yemeni soldiers in Sana’a. And the list continues. With this type of information, what would Al Shabaab benefit from throwing a grenade in a Christian church in Nairobi?
Terrorists rarely throw grenades into churches, disco halls and shopping malls. Who would be their targets and the intended impact?
Terrorists besides spreading fear, target those things that make the country tick. These are found not in the type of targets such as we are seeing in Kenya. Obvious targets would be the leadership. Most recently we saw in Somalia, suicide bombers targeting the prime minister at the national theatre in Mogadishu, a target that if killed, would shape issues in Somalia. They later attempted to ambush the presidential convoy. These are strategic targets. Al Shabaab would cripple our infrastructure, not shopping mall in Moi Avenue. Kenyan economy may be a target but not Machakos bus station or a small church in the outskirts of Nairobi.
In, all these episodes the Kenyan government is playing to the tune of Al Shaabab. Government is attributing criminal type activities to the terror groups. Al Shabaab is laughing all the way as it becomes famous, gets the unwarranted publicity, and benefits immensely. Search for explanation for the attacks should be focused elsewhere. Could these grenade attacks be attributed to business rivalry? Most of what we have witnessed are attacks in bars in Wajir, at the Kampala bus stage in Nairobi and more recently at a shopping mall that is not frequented by any government officials. This is a second time this building in Moi Avenue has caught fire.
Is there a linkage between the recurrent grenade attacks to our failed systems? Some of the perpetrators of the attacks have entered Kenya through corrupt officers in the immigration departments. Government departments are known to issue national Identity cards-IDs and passports and hence citizenship for cash. People illegally issued with IDs are never vetted properly. With IDs and passports, aliens get appointed to government security institutions like was the case with the Artur brothers.
Kenyans are a security complacent community who think that issues of security are only the responsibility of the police, the army and administration police – the government. They are forgetting that Kenya is at war and it cannot be business as usual. What is each Kenyan’s contribution to the war effort? Is it asking too much from the citizens to be cautious, vigilant and weary of who they interact with? No, it is not. It is each citizen’s responsibility as a part of civil defense to ensure safety.
We need to up our fight against crime in order to deal with recurrent criminal activities now facing us. Every time Kenya government becomes paranoid with any criminal activity and attributes it to Al Shabaab, then Kenya is assisting Al Shabaab’s intent. It will not be too late before al Shabaab spins propaganda that they have defeated the Kenyan government. Let us not built Al Shabaab where they have not invested, it is important to look for solution elsewhere.
Opiyo Ododa is specialist in security and international affairs.