The Blog

Who Is Blowing Up Kenya?


I have written this article with Patrick Omune of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Sandra Belyon, Francis Kamotho, Brian Jibbo of Mediaedge Public Relations and Paul Suiyanga, Emergency Nurse.

In a span of 2months, Kenya has seen 4 blasts killing 16 people with scores injured. This is following deadly attack in 2013 at the upmarket Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. Good news is that we know who was behind the Westgate madness; Al Shabaab claimed responsibility. But who is behind April-May 2013 attacks? is it still Al Shabaab?

Al Shabaab according to United States, shares ideological ties with Al Qaeda and the group embraces a strict form of Salafi Islam that stresses a literal and rigid reading of the Quran. It preaches that present-day Muslims must practice Islam according to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. However, it has been documented that Al Shabab is losing its strength and they are desperate to send signals to the world that they are still lethal (Washington Post). But are they?

Kenya is not the only country that have sent her soldiers to peace mission in Somalia. The peace mission in Somalia is UN backed and it is dubbed AMISOM. Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sierra leone and Uganda are other contributors of this UN backed group. The AMISOM is being funded by European Union and UN.

Why are we not hearing frequent attacks in above countries? So who is blowing up Kenya? I decided to engage my friends back in Kenya and hear their thoughts on who is tearing Kenya with grenades:

Patrick Omune

There is a verse in our National Anthem that goes;

Justice be our shield and defender, May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty...

but in recent times, our country has never known peace. The recent terrorist attack on innocent Kenyans, which have been linked to Al Shabaab, is a testament to this fact. Kenya's biggest problem towards the fight on terrorism seems to be the corrupt nature of our police force, specifically, those who patrol our borders. A well-oiled network of brokers coordinates the arrival of illegal immigrants through the Kenyan gateway towns of Isiolo and Garissa. Another factor to consider is the issue of radicalisation of the Kenyan youths, which is very prevalent at the Coastal region. The current social economic conditions help feed this trend and the worrying fact is that the young radicals are not just Somalis - but includes other Kenyan tribes.

Sandra Belyon: Public Relations and Communications Consultant and soon to be mom

As questions of who is tearing my beloved Kenya apart literally beams in from news dissemination channels, my small Barraza(weekly meetings) at my apartment block and to the conversations going on at the Kiosks, fear is evident. Reasons behind rising insecurity in the country include porous borders, corruption in immigration department and the radicalization of the Muslim male youth mostly in Mombasa. Kenya is home to refugees from warring neighbouring countries like Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. Refugees camps are not well manned, living conditions deplorable and keeping a head count is challenging. Next to my apartment, there is Capital Center, a huge mall that has seen businesses counting losses as there is rise of phobia for shopping centers especially after Westgate attack. Kenyans are becoming more vigilante and they have introduced more security checks in matatu. The down side of this massive security operation is increase in ethnic profiling mostly affecting Somali community. The situation is becoming desperate that when someone of a Somali decent boards a bus, the rest of the passengers get off forcing conductors to deny Somalis access.

Francis Kamotho

Kenya is my home and I love it. I love my countrymen too; they are a hardworking and persevering lot. There is a thin line between perseverance and complacency and right now Kenya as a society has blurred it completely; we vacillate between these two so effortlessly, it is disturbing to watch. Accountability has been deleted from our national vocabulary. Our leaders are not facing the consequences of their actions (or, inaction in some cases). They will hijack burials and utter polarizing statements that are aimed at dividing people and walk away fully confident that there won't be any repercussions late. In recent days, over 64 people died after consuming illicit brew. This number is far greater than what the twin blasts on Thika road matatus claimed on. Kenyans are back to their normal routine doing what they know best: persevering. Tell me:

who needs terrorists when you have our leaders?

Paul Suiyanga, Emergency Nurse: Nairobi

The question on every Kenyan's mind is whether we have offended the wrong people and who is planning the attacks. Al Shabaab has many sympathizers in Kenya, especially among the young Muslim community. They feel the government has wronged them. I always ask myself,

if Kenyan army exit Somalia, will the attacks seize?

There's an element of doubt whether Al Shabaab might be behind these all blasts. Experts report that terrorists will always claim any attacks they have carried and they will televise those claims in broad day light. During attacks, terrorists would target for maximum casualties and prefer crowded places. We need to identify these sympathizers who are thriving in creating hate between Kenyans and Somalis.

Brian Jibbo

To understand the current Al Shabaab recalcitrance in Kenya, is to go beyond poverty and joblessness issue and to dig deeper into Somali-Kenya question. The Somalis are a tribe found in both Somalis and North Eastern Kenya, conveniently divided by British and Italian colonial administrations after the World War 1. After Kenya's independence, Britain bequeathed the North Eastern Frontier to Kenya despite a seemingly overwhelming support for unification with the newly formed Somali Republic. Kenya was not interested and what would follow were a secessionist movement and a long drawn out war that was thwarted through a ceasefire between Kenya and Somali governments in 1967. With the Somali's wish not granted, a culture of mistrust and marginalization has ensued to date. Following the Somali instability from the 1990's to date, Kenya has been host to over 610,000 documented and 500 undocumented Somali refugees, most of whom escaped the squalid Daadab and Kakuma refugee camps to Eastleigh, a down town Nairobi district where most of the Al-Shabaab bombings have been happening. While international support to prevent acts of terrorism would be welcome, in terms of surveillance and intelligence and disaster management, the real threats to Kenya's national security are instead found in the porous borders between Kenya and Somali, a corrupt security system and compromised immigration set-up.

The above thoughts confirms what majority of Kenya think; porous borders, ill equipped police and corruption. But, let us be careful, terrorism isn't a one country's problem, it is a global challenge that the world needs to tackle in unity. For Kenya, she doesn't need just to fish out who is throwing grenades but she needs an informed intelligence unit. Kenyan government seems to be linking Somali ethnic group with every blast, to me this is being naïve and it promotes xenophobia. Kenya politicians should be objective and tell their followers that Kenya is not at war with Somalia or Somalis. I am sure there are illegal Chinese, Nigerians, whatever nationalities in Kenya but one never sees them being lined up on the glare of Media. Look, because one white clown could throw a banana in a stadium during a football match, that doesn't make all Caucasian racist.

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