Civilians flee as security forces aim their weapons at the buildings of a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya. Picture: Khalil Senosi/AP
Civilians flee as security forces aim their weapons at the buildings of a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya. Picture: Khalil Senosi/AP

Why Kenya is a prime target for terror attacks

By Clyde Ramalaine Time of article published Jan 18, 2019

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The Nairobi attack this past week confirmed that Kenya remains a nation that is targeted by those who commit terrorist acts.

The attacks cannot be understood in isolation but should be viewed alongside the infamous 1976 Entebbe hostage crisis in neighbouring Uganda and the 1980 Norfolk-linked PLO incidents.

These were followed by the 1998 US embassy attack and the 2002 suicide bombings. In May 2003, Washington warned Kenya of possible imminent attacks.

We also remember the 2014 and 2015 attacks that gripped the nation, although they were concentrated in areas close to the Somalian borders.

This brings us to the unfolding attacks of 2019. Within a five-year cycle, Kenya has registered terrorist attacks of varied forms and degrees.

What the world knows is that in recent years there were a number of attacks in this nation, particularly in Garissa, Lamu and Mandera.

These counties border Somalia; it is therefore here that the attacks from al-Shabaab are experienced most.

Kenya has over time distinguished itself as the country in Africa most likely to be attacked by these groups.

It is also believed that it is most likely the attacks are engineered by the Somalia-based al-Shabaab extremist group.

We know this because al-Shabaab has made threats of this nature in retaliation to Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.

Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, and the coastal areas of Mombasa and Malindi appear to be the next targets. Often the attacks assume indiscriminate forms, particularly in places where tourists and foreigners regularly visit.

The fundamental question that lingers is why Kenya is a recipient of these attacks, something very unfamiliar to the rest of the more than 50 countries that make up Africa.

While many answers can be proffered, a consistent one is Kenya’s association with what is understood to be “Western interest”.

To support this, Koome Gikunda, an academic, says Kenya is the only African country that has a formal agreement with Washington for the use of local military facilities. The agreement was signed in 1980, and it allows US troops to use the port of Mombasa, as well as airfields at Embakasi and Nanyuki.

He goes on to assert: “These facilities were used to support the disastrous American military intervention in Somalia - an Islamic state - in 1992 to 1994, and have been used in the past to support US and other coalition forces involved in counter-terrorism operations.”

According to an exploratory survey report on perceptions on terrorism in Kenya, compiled by Krause and Otenyo: “Respondents feel most threatened, not by terrorism but by Aids and local criminals.”

Edward Mogire in his article Counter-terrorism in Kenya, argues: “The terrorist attacks of August 7, 1998 raise serious questions about transnational and domestic terrorism in Kenya and the horn of Africa.”

It appears that the unfolding terrorist attacks in Kenya cannot be divorced from its allegiance to the Western world.

What is interesting is that the state has made the war on terrorism a top priority, and therefore its policy is defined by a commonly shared mindset with the Western world.

The key question remains: For how long can the political elite get away with playing on the railway lines of oncoming trains?

As happens elsewhere, the African political elites continue their pursuit of personal economic interest and sacrifice the lives of the poor.

Being Africa’s baptised front-line state in the war on global terrorism has cost the Kenyan nation much more than a few limbs.

* Ramalaine is a political commentator and writer.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

** For more opinion go to za

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