• Isis this year, Baghdadi said, will follow a strategy that focuses on “the periphery” of Syria and Iraq, in order to expand and avenge its losses. That periphery includes Africa too.
• As for Kenya, with the monstrous Isis operating to our North and West and al Shabaab to our east, it cannot afford to ignore the danger.
During a visit to China in April, President Uhuru Kenyatta managed to strike several deals that will benefit the two countries.
Uhuru secured groundbreaking agreements in infrastructure, agriculture and education and they are bound to enhance even further the country’s economic growth. While this is commendable, the government must now put equal effort in the security sector, especially in attempts to combat the threat of terrorism.
Speaking from an unknown location, the leader of the terror group Isis recently made his first video appearance since 2014. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, seated on the floor with an AK-74 to his side, delivered a foreboding 18-minute speech. He acknowledged the defeat in the battle for Baghouz, the last bastion of Isis in Syria. He also boasted about the terrible Easter church bombings in Sri Lanka, which killed over 250 people. And there is more to come, he promised.
Baghdadi, responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity of this century, including genocide, rape, enslavement, and plundering, laid out his twisted worldview of “the battle of Islam and its people with the cross and its people”.
From there, he went on to speak of his ongoing “ninety-two operations in eight countries”, demonstrating how shockingly active his organisation still is, despite five years of war against it by the 79 members of the US-led Global Coalition against Daesh (Isis), as well as by Russia and Iran.
Isis this year, Baghdadi said, will follow a strategy that focuses on “the periphery” of Syria and Iraq, in order to expand and avenge its losses. That periphery includes Africa too, with operations expanding where there is political instability and fragile states such as the Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso and Mali.
As for Kenya, with the monstrous Isis operating to our North and West and al Shabaab to our east, it cannot afford to ignore the danger.
Fortunately, we have a President who is committed to a three-pronged to combat poverty (the Big Four agenda) and the anti-graft war and the fight against terror.
Countering Isis and its efficient recruitment mechanism requires, above all, tight international cooperation. According to the website of the Global Coalition against Daesh, in which Kenya is a partner, the alliance targets the financing and economic infrastructure of the enemy, prevents foreign terrorist fighters from travelling across borders, supports “stabilisation and the restoration of essential public services to areas liberated from Daesh” and “countering the group’s propaganda”. These measures must be taken against all terrorist operations, also in our region, and with the strongest degree of coordination.
That is why the bid for Kenya to join the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is well placed. It will serve as an opportunity to boost the commitment and broaden the scope for global cooperation in the face of very real threats that have the potential to completely undermine the impressive progress Kenya is making on all other issues.
If Kenya’s bid is successful, it will be the third time it will serve in the UNSC, following two terms in 1973-74 and 1997-98. At those times, the seat was used to support the aspirations of different countries seeking independence. This time, our key objectives are to increase the sharing of intelligence and of systems used by individual countries to withhold funds from terrorist groups, as well as to reclassify al Shabaab as a terror group, as opposed to merely a militia.
The UNSC, the highest level of decision making at the UN, has 15 members, 10 of which are non-permanent. Two of those will be replaced in 2021-22. Kenya’s bid will be determined through secret elections during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September.
The bid has already been endorsed by all six EAC member states, as well as by Namibia. Currently, Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma, is working on an endorsement at the African Union level, where Kenya already serves in the Peace and Security Council.
China, one of five permanent members of the UNSC, was asked already in March for its support. This has been raised again by Uhuru in his recent meeting with President Xi Jinping.
China knows that it too is a target of ISIS and other terrorist groups. Having won our full cooperation on their Belt and Road Initiative and brokered a series of beneficial bilateral agreements with us, it is time for China to recognise Kenya’s growing role in the fight against terror and support its bid for a seat at the UNSC.
Magut is chairman, Bomas of Kenya