The real enemy roams free as we hunt Shabaab
There is more to the current “security operation” than meets the eye. Granted, Kenya is clearly suffering heinous terror attacks.
They must be stopped, and soon. And they better be stopped using the law, rather than outside of it, or we will be all the worse for it.
All the attacks have been swiftly attributed by the police — that inefficient, corrupt and unreliable force — to Al-Shabaab. And many of us have swallowed the police line, even though we consistently rate the police as the most untrusted and corrupt institution in Kenya.
That incongruity happens when there is fear, frustration and anxiety. Human beings need to believe that someone is in control of a dire situation and that they know how to deal with it.
But Al Shabaab has not claimed all the attacks, and those who have studied Al Shabaab closely tell me that they always claim their deeds to show their power and strength.
They proved this with the Westgate attacks in September last year and with the Kampala blasts four years ago. It serves their interests to “own” their attacks for that makes them larger than life.
The official response to these attacks has been the racial and xenophobic profiling of Al Shabaab Somali-looking people, conflating security and immigration, based on the fact that Al Shabaab has deep roots in the Somalia conflicts.
Yet we know for a fact that Al Shabaab at its height recruited a lot of Kipsangs, Mwangis, Otienos, and Wabwires, but we have not sequestered and racially profiled the Kalenjin, Gikuyu, Luo and Luhya because some of their kin joined Al Shabaab.
In profiling and sequestering Somalis, the regime has borrowed a page from the colonial playbook on policing natives, more than 60 years after the model has been discredited, and with the clear knowledge—from experience, not theory—that this approach does not work.
And unless our leaders live in Jupiter, they also know that this approach is a sure gravy train for the police and its deep extortionist culture. So, rather than focus on either security or immigration, the police see the official policy as validating their long practice of seeing Somalis as Automated Teller Machines.
The stories of extortion, sexual assaults and brutality are horrendous. And making things worse, those arrested in the swoops have been held in inhumane conditions that only increases anger.
So we are not any safer than we were before and in the process, we have managed to alienate, humiliate, marginalise and radicalise a sizeable community in Kenya purely on the basis of ethnicity and religion.
We must assume that those who have taken the responsibility of governing us are not fools in the least. In fact their campaign strategy was brilliant, focused wonderfully on making sure they were declared the winners of the last elections, and in the first round, which they achieved magnificently.
So why would a self-declared digital regime use obviously analogue and unworkable strategies when it comes to our security?
And in the midst of this dubious security operation, we have a car loaded with explosives blasting away at the Parklands Police Station in Nairobi and then the deadly grenade attacks in Mombasa and Thika Road last week, obviously targeting a particular community and aiming to polarise Kenyans even more. And from the activity in the blogosphere this aim is being achieved.
But while Al Shabaab is immediately blamed for these attacks, there are no admissions and confessions from them as we would expect after such heinous actions.
Of course Al Shabaab could have changed tack in efforts to sow even more confusion, but serious investigators should look at these attacks more closely lest they let some new, unknown perpetrators off the hook—to our horrible detriment—as they blame everything on Al Shabaab.
For what will it mean if there are new perpetrators causing death and havoc and we are only chasing an outfit that is weakened—as the Government describes it since invading Somalia — and clearly on the run?
While Al Shabaab is the convenient bogey man today, thrust out as the monster out to get us, let us remember that in June 2010 at the height of the referendum campaigns on the Constitution, grenade attacks were launched at Uhuru Park at a rally addressed by William Ruto, then leading the NO brigade against the constitution.
We never heard anything about that explosion after that and Al Shabaab was not even considered responsible. Instead suspicion was directed at security agencies that loathed and still loathe the democratic space provided in the Constitution.
Dealing with terrorism is never easy, anywhere in the world. But there are plenty of examples where states have dealt with the problem effectively without resorting to the same tactics as the terrorists. In fact the Consumers Federation of Kenya has made some reasonable suggestions to the President in an open letter dated May 5, which could form a basis for intelligent action.
And it remains a mystery why the Government has never appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the Westgate affair as it had promised. President Kenyatta was onto something there when he made that promise, for it is the lack of transparency and the culture of corruption that expose us to terrorism.
Let’s connect some dots: Amidst all these terror attacks—some by Al Shabaab and others not so clear by whom—the Anglo Leasing scandals pop back into our lives and this time in a determined effort to get taxpayers to pay for corruption.
Let us not forget that all the Anglo Leasing deals were ostensibly to purchase security equipment that would have made Kenya safer through the introduction of harder-to-forge passports and modern communication equipment for the police.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
The irony is telling: Here we are being pushed to pay for something that was never delivered that could have protected us better and at a time when we are all feeling victimised. There can be no better illustration of the deadly and damaging consequences of corruption than this.
In matters politics, one of the truisms is to always “follow the money.” Could some of these attacks have been timed so as to distract us while payments to Anglo Leasing were being quietly made? Who benefits from these payments to ghosts and what is their link to higher-ups?
I am told by a well-placed source in government that the payments would have been done quietly and smoothly but for the insistence of President Kenyatta that Parliament be involved, conscious of the fact that the preferred quiet payments route would have irreversibly damaged his anti-corruption credentials garnered from his tenure as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee on its Anglo Leasing report and investigation.
But whatever the facts of who is doing what, when and why, what is clear is that there is a link between corruption and insecurity generally and terrorism more specifically.
It is easy to ignore this link when we are in a climate of fear and easy to paint matters in black or white. But terrorism and insecurity are handled best by brains not brawn.