Since Kenya sent its army, KDF to Somalia, we have been at war with al Shabaab. The recent massacre of 54 Kenyans in Mandera confirms that al Shabaab’s war in Kenya is only beginning.
To execute this war, Kenyans need a national debate, orchestrated by a mature and responsible media, to understand how best to repel and protect ourselves against terrorism.
To win this war, Kenyans need to understand that war cannot be fought and won by one or two individuals or government alone. War is always a collective, national effort. Consequently, it is disastrous for government to think it can fight and win a war alone.
When we write about this war as we are doing now, it is not to fight, heckle, harass or sabotage government’s war effort, it is to make our humble contribution to the same effort as taxpayers who finance the war, by laying bare certain things we must agree upon to best execute the war:
One, in fighting this war, we must be clear that the enemy is al Shabaab, not the people of Kenya who, therefore, must not be addressed in fury, anger, harshness and even dismissal by their President, when they complain of government inactions.
Two, that removing ole Lenku and IG from office was good but not adequate, especially if they are replaced by persons who may not turn out to be more capable.
Three, that the top-level changes were brought about by people’s demonstrations and clamour for them, which proves that waging war and President listening to people are not contradictory or incompatible.
Four, that removing ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police from office should not be misunderstood to mean surrendering the all important principle of good governance that the buck for government failures stops with the President – not his officers who were in this case forced to take flak for the President.
Five, the war al Shabaab is fighting with Kenya is not a war that police can successfully fight because of its sophistication and global nature, encompassing global Islamic terrorist movements like al Qaeda. In countries like Iraq, it is fought by American and Nato armies combined. Therefore, whether fought in Somalia or Kenya, this war must be fought by KDF, not police who can only assist with gathering local intelligence.
Six, when KDF took the war to al Shabaab in Somalia, al Shabaab transferred the war theatre to Kenya, where KDF back in Somalia should now pursue them.
Seven, KDF cannot successfully fight both in Kenya and Somali. While KDF should take on al Shabaab wherever they choose, they should give priority to fighting them in Kenya to protect Kenyans, than in Somalia to liberate Somalis from al Shabaab’s Jihad.
Eight, after al Shabaab changed the theatre of war to Kenya, our army should now transfer its garrisons from urban places like Kahawa, Gilgil, Lanet, Eldoret, Nanyuki or Lang'ata to secure border areas and completely stop al Shabaab’s infiltration into Kenya.
Nine, Islamic terrorism is a global enemy that should be fought collectively by all nations of the world. Kenyans cannot commit their entire army to this war when others only contribute a few soldiers or just money.
Ten, fundamentally, Kenyans pay taxes to employ, arm and maintain KDF for their protection, not to liberate Somalia at the expense of Kenyans and their security. Whatever commitments we have made to others, going to Somalia to put out al Shabaab’s fire while home is burning is not very sensible. In fact, to secure Kenya is to secure Somalia and our region.
Eleven, to have more freedom to fight the al Shabaab without breaking Geneva Convention, all areas that are infested with al Shabaab and their sympathisers should be declared war zones in order to secure them.
Twelve, the President should appoint his security managers on the basis of merit, not ethnicity or party membership and, therefore, did well to appoint General Nkaissery. There should be no jobs for Maasais, Kikuyus, Kalenjins or Luos. All jobs should go to those who qualify best for them.
Thirteen, when Kenyans see heart-rending pictures of the dead in Mandera, it amazes that they are not spontaneously roused into demonstrations all over the country in Mandera, Nairobi, Garissa, Lamu, Mombasa and elsewhere to condemn al Shabaab. The collective soul of Kenyans must be dead, rendering them incapable of fighting for the country and themselves. As we rightly demonstrate against our government for inactions, we must demonstrate against the al Shabaab to raise national morale and send clear message to the al Shabaab that Kenyans are ready and willing to fight them.
Fourteen, most Kenyans are against terrorism and religious intolerance. Different conversations that detract us from unity must not be allowed in vernacular radio stations.
Fifteen, our army and police should be very ashamed and apologetic to Kenyan people when they view 54 bodies of dead Kenyans in Mandera whose lives they are paid to protect but did not save after giving their assurances that they would. Indeed, on account of the second attack in Mandera, the head of the army General Karangi should have retired along with Kimaiyo. Without a sense of civilisation, Kenyans will not win the war against terrorism.
Sixteen, government’s word should be its bond. When people cannot believe government assurances on security, everything else is lost. President Uhuru should raise Kenyans from the hole of official distrust where government has sunk them or quit because people cannot be governed by a government whose promise they cannot trust. It is a mammoth but unavoidable task. In war, people must be able to trust their government 100 per cent.