MOHAMED: Rethink needed in Kenya’s war on terror

Wajir County, situated in the terrorism-prone northeastern region, was the scene of the latest Al-Shabaab assault by means of an ambuscade landmine that hit a police patrol vehicle, killing 12 Administration Police officers.
The geographic proximity of northeastern to war-torn Somalia and an overlong porous border have become a major source of conveyance for virtually all the terror carnage in Kenya, for which the region has borne the brunt.
The government is doing a lot both internally and in Somalia to eliminate the Al-Qaeda-allied group but the latest attack should take our officials back to the drawing board to come up with a multi-thronged strategy that would effectively protect the country, mainly the northeastern region, from further infiltrations by the members of the Somalia-based terrorist organisation.
The cheekiness with which Al-Shabaab has surreptitiously deepened its operations in the country, more so in northeastern, since the Kenya Defence Forces entered Somalia on October 16, 2011, has often raised the question of whether there was a prior interior impact assessment and a correlated security action plan.
For instance, when the terrorist group fulfilled its biggest and vilest attack in Kenya since the 1998 US Embassy bombing by Al-Qaeda at Garissa University in April 2015, which claimed nearly 150 lives, the issue of whether the incident could have been averted was shortly brought up.
It rightly emerged that it could have been had the government been proactively cognizant of the potential danger that lurked for the university, which had a large concentration of non-muslim students, who stood out as probable targets.
The soft power of community outreach and engagement with the purpose of positively empowering vulnerable groups to act as the first line of defence in the campaign against terrorism need to be optimised.
In northeastern Kenya, historical antagonism and mistrust between local security forces and the predominantly Somali community has hindered the attainment of success in the war on terror. As proven in many jurisdictions, this war can only be effectively won on a supportive working relationship between members of the public and security agencies.
The leadership in security, administration and politics need to harmoniously bond and exhaustively work together to build an enabling environment for public awareness and participation in countering violent extremism (CVE).
Similarly, special engagement with the many retired and colossally experienced security officers who are in vulnerable places is extremely necessary.
Failure to tap into this pool is wastage of valuable knowledge and talent when it matters most because, as they say, ‘once a soldier, always a soldier”.
Further, initiating development to promote businesses and increase incomes through job creation for idle youths will stand as insulation from the toxicities and destruction of radicalisation and terrorism that thrive in zones that face social and economic fault lines.
This is why the formation of a vibrant ‘Marshal Plan’ is essential in the historically marginalised areas.
Mr Mohamed is a sociopolitical commentator in Garissa County. @HassanMalikMoha



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