Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Kenya has twice been on the receiving end of terrorist attacks. On August 7th 1998 224 people died and 5,000 were injured when Al Qaeda targeted the American embassy in downtown Nairobi; on November 28th 2002, 16 people died and 80 were injured when Al Qaeda attacked an Israeli owned hotel in Mombasa. Since September 11 2001 terrorism has become a very important issue, especially to Kenya’s most influential development partners the US and UK. This has meant that terrorism has come to the fore front of government decision making (though under duress). The year 2003 has seen an up tick in government focus on terrorism, especially after the US issued travel advisories and the UK banned British flights in to Kenya. The ban is estimated to have cost Kenya on average $1 million per day (and it was in place for over a month).
Kenya is in one of the most unstable regions of the world, from Somalia, to Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. Most of Kenya’s neighbors are or have been in the past islands of instability. At the particular moment – with regard to the war on terrorism – the most important states are Somalia (a failed state that is home to an Al Qaeda affiliated organization on the State Department terror list: Al Itihad Al Islamiya) and Sudan, a state sponsor and former home of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. These two states pose the greatest threat to stability in the region and Kenya in particular: " The UN report ( on the potential for terrorist attacks in Kenya) backs its report with the continued instability in neighboring Somalia, which is viewed as a safe haven for terrorist groups. The porous border between the Kenya and Somalia and the ports in the two countries are seen as arms conduits." (Kelly). In fact evidence does exist which shows that the 2002 attackers were able to smuggle weapons through the Somali border: "The terrorist responsible for the bombing of the Paradise hotel in 2002 in Mombasa and the attempted attack of flight 582 from Mombasa to Tel Aviv brought missiles from Yemen via Somalia to Kenya." (Kelly)
There are a number of things that the government can do in order to ensure that the country is safe from terrorists. The most important is border patrol. Kenya’s military is on of the most under utilized resources, I call upon the government to deploy troops to guard the long border with Somalia and Sudan. This would stem the flow of weapons in to the country and also the likely hood of terrorists sneaking into the country. It would also be wise to enact stringent immigration laws and monitor the refugee camps in Northern Kenya (which are not only a conduit for weapons, but may serve as recruiting grounds for terrorists). Another important tool would be conflict resolution. The government has rightfully continued along the path of the previous regime in this regard. Hopes are high for a resolution of the conflict in Sudan and hopefully this would give an impetus to the Somali delegates meeting in Kenya, to strive for peace. It is only through the existence of strong and stable governments in the region that we can avoid the scourge of terrorist camps in the region.
Twice terrorists have attacked Kenya, however, Kenya has never enacted any law against the scourge. Uganda, and Tanzania both have laws, but Kenya does not. This is a sad commentary. However, the government should not rush to pass a law due to pressure from the US and UK (which has been alleged). In addition passing the law, the government should also strengthen the ability of the anti-terror police squad (created under pressure from the west): "This dire state of affairs applies equally in the newly created Anti-terrorist police unit. Although the unit has been reported to be a 400 strong force, the reality is very different…With the exception of a handful, the officers in the unit do not have any special training dealing with terrorism. Nor do they have hi-tech equipment or other equipment for the taxing job." (EA standard editorial). While improving the condition of the unit the government should also look into revamping the intelligence services and ensuring that their focus is on security and not politics (as had been in the past).
The government should also be very careful about how it handles terrorist threats or publicizes things concerning terrorism. It should not be forgotten that the May travel advisories and ban were triggered by the minister for security announcing that a suspect had been spotted in Somalia (apparently without first consulting the US or verifying the sitting independently): "On the travel advisories, I feel that the government should not always rush to the press anytime they come across some information on threats. Even in our time we had lots of information on threats but we handled them responsibly. By issuing information to the public you only succeed in spreading desperation in a helpless public. You should inform the right people at the right time." Marsden Madoka, former minister for security.


Blogger Rajeev said...

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3:07 AM  

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