It’s about time the peace loving countries stop just giving condolences and empty words of support and start acting on these words. It is not the first time Kenya has been hit by acts of terror, and it is not the first time America, EU and the respective EU countries like UK, Denmark flooded the government with promises to help in fighting terror. But after a few weeks when the dead have been buried and the flag no longer hoisted half way, all these promises disappear till the next time terror strikes and instead the same governments advise their citizens to make sure they do not step on the Kenyan soil when they are choosing their travel destinations. The diplomatic term is ‘Travel Advisories’ which is a sure way of crippling Kenya’s economy, an economy that depends highly on tourism for foreign exchange earnings. Now I must confess that it is my own personal observation that has led me to that line of thought but there is some truth to it.
I appreciate the Kenyan government making promises of clearing Al Shabaab off the face of the earth, but we all know that it cannot manage that solo. No single country has on its own won over such terror groups, Americans tried and failed, they formed a ‘coalition of the willing’ elite group to bring down Saddam Hussein, they needed allies to fight Al Qaeda in Afganistan, and even now in the fight against ISIS. ISIS is a slightly larger organisation but there is danger that Al Shabaab could get as big if Kenya doesn’t receive any assistance from the peace loving nations of the world. By assistance I do not just mean helping in training the Kenyan forces, or sharing intelligence, (although it goes along way) but rather making a proactive coordinated effort, a coalition of the willing if you want, and wage war on Al Shabaab to silent them before get larger.
A traditionally organized army like Kenya’s alone, will have a hard time winning over bush fighters, or in this case, desert fighters. And especially not when the Kenya Somalia border is as porous as it is. The Northern Kenya, close to the Somalia border, hosts one of the largest refugee camps in the world, it has been feared before that terrorists have managed to cross over to the camps in pretense of being refugees. There are myriads of issues that make it difficult for the Kenyan government to fight over these terrorists who are ready to die as long as they manage to take someone else’s life with them in the process.
Now one may argue that this is a Kenyan problem and the international community does not have anything to do with it. But when I think of terrorism in Kenya in the recent history, my memory takes me back to the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi. This is partly because I am referring to the branded ‘Terrorism’, the kind that has ‘religion’ and ‘hatred to the west’ stamped on it. With the 1998 bombings, Kenya happened to be conveniently close to the Al Qaeda base in Somalia and USA was too far for the terrorists to gain access, but they managed to show Americans that they were not untouchable, albeit in foreign land. Kenyans paid the prize, with 214 lives lost and more than 4000 wounded. The Americans were quick to stand with Kenya and offered help with improving their security, but at the same time, they were quick enough to warn their citizens against planning their holidays in Kenya. Many other European countries followed suit. This notwithstanding that tourism is one of the biggest foreign exchange earners. Kenya suffered both with the loss of lives and received a blow to the economy as well. This was the beginning of many a travel advisories from both USA and Europe for the decade that followed. Kenya has since been the target by terrorists in both large and small capacities. In the last couple of years, more grenades thrown in market places and major attacks have been carried out, more sympathy messages have been sent out by the friendly nations and so has the travel advisories against visiting Kenya. To the friends of Kenya, kindly form a coalition of the willing, and dismantle Al Shabaab when it’s still at its teething stages.
For what it’s worth, I hope peace will reign in Somalia soon. Thank you.