Fighting Terrorism in the Region: President Museveni’s Approach

Standard

Clip from K24 – Speech by President Y. Museveni during the 52nd Madaraka Day celebrations in Nairobi

During the Madaraka Day celebrations, the President of Uganda who was a state guest to the celebrations gave a rousing speech in Kiswahili on how Kenya can defeat Al Shabaab. This eye rousing speech was heavily borrowed on his earlier opinion piece which he had written and circulated to newsrooms in the region. The opinion piece titled President Museveni gives rare insights on Al Shabaab which was published in Mail Guardian Africa

One of the things that caught my attention watching this fete was the mode of delivery used by the Ugandan President. The President used Swahili to deliver his speech. Normally Ugandan’s do not speak Kiswahili but President Museveni spent a couple of years in Kenya during the years of turmoil in Uganda. So, he is rather well acquainted with Kenya’s lingua franca but that said it shows the lengths the President went on to explain his philosophy of fighting terrorism to the common folk. His speech won a lot of admiration both online and offline and it does go on to cement his credentials as a former general and as a master strategist who led a guerrilla war on Idi Amin administration. It shows he still has it. One of the main problems with the fight in terrorism in Kenya has been both on the strategy (mostly the lack of it) and disconnect between the authorities and the citizens. The State has resulted in bastardizing the Somali community.

‘Foot in Mouth’ Strategies
After the Garissa terror attack, the administration scored a number of own goals such as the remarks by the Deputy President in which he was quoted indicating that the state wanted to close Dadaab Refugee Camp. The state has since revised its position on closing Dadaab but this was as a result of international condemnation and lobbying by the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

The other preposterous idea by the administration in Kenya was the building of a wall on the Kenya Somalia border. It looked like Kenya was going to join the leagues of Israel-Palestine, East-West Germany and US-Mexico wall barriers. In what is expected to be a 700 Kilometres stretch, the state seems to be going retro on its fight on Shabaab. It is a no brainer that this money would be better spent equipping and beefing up the security personnel along the Kenya-Somalia border plus fighting corruption along the border posts.
Kenya’s great wall as it has been ironically referred to, is well highlighted and analysed here

The other strategy which was pursued by the state immediately after the Garissa attack was the closure of Dahabshiil, the money transfer platform which mainly used to remit money to Somali by Kenyan Somalia’s and Somali’s in the diaspora. The rationale used by the state was that this was a conduit used to send money to Al Shabaab in Somali but this has been perceived by the Somalia community in Kenya as blanket condemnation of the whole community. This strategy would be akin to closure of M-Pesa platform in Kenya which is used to remit money to and from urban-rural areas.

Lastly, the state has clumped on the bank accounts of NGO’s which work or are associated with the Somalia community. Instead of the state cultivating a positive relationship with these NGO’s affiliated or working with the Somalia community. Especially to find out why youths are being radicalised and seek subtle ways and solutions of fighting this endemic, the state has embarked on a path of distancing itself with the Somali community. Intelligence is crucial in the fight against Al Shabaab and there is no way the state will win the war on terror is it seeks to alienate itself from the Somali community. As President Museveni noted;

The one factor that we must emphasize is intelligence – tactical (in a locality) and strategic (in the whole country and the region). – President Museveni

The above measures taken up by the state are not consistent with rationale and strategic thinking. One can only be hopeful that the Kenyan administration can be schooled in the ways of the general as espoused in the Madaraka speech of the Ugandan President which focused on strategic ways of dealing with the Al Shabaab. That is why this speech comes at a very crucial time and is most welcome. Also, the fact that the President Museveni chose to pass this message in Swahili was a strategic communication coup in my opinion. This is because he was able to reach many people in the republic. National celebrations are usually given ample airtime by the state broadcaster and are expected to reach all parts of Kenya.

The other outcome which is laid bare by the Ugandan President’s visit to Kenya and his fight on terror speech is the power play in the region.

President Museveni: First among Equals in the Region?
In my consented opinion, Museveni’s speech further indicates that Ugandan President is considered as first among equals by his peers in the East Africa region. President Museveni happens to be the senior most statesmen in the region. During his speech, he did indicate that he had called on his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta and advised him on how to tackle on the Shabaab menace.

This is especially important considering the events taking place in the region. Whereas Kenyan President seems to represent the future of the region and Africa in general and managed to attract a lot of pull with his ICC predicament. When it comes to matters of security, and as long as we have Al Shabaab menace it seems President Museveni will always be relevant. However, on economic frontier the Kenyan President seems to be taking the lead on these matters together with his Rwandan counterpart. The two seem to represent a dynamic duo which is keen on pushing on a developmental state paradigm to give relevance to their rule, democratic or otherwise.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

December 2 President’s Speech on the Current Security Situation in Kenya

Standard

Without a doubt security, mostly the lack of it has been one of the biggest talking points in Kenya. After the Mandera incident which took place while the president was out of the country on official duty in UAE.  The president received a lot of backlash on his reaction albeit lack of it at that point in time not to cancel his visit in UAE and come home to attend to the growing insecurity matters. It must be pointed that after the Mandera incident the Deputy President did address the nation in a well-choreographed speech which indicated that the Kenyan army had miraculously identified an Al Shabaab camp which it went ahead to bomb. Needless to say no level headed analysis believed the Deputy Presidents account of events since the evidence of this attack mostly the veracity of the photos produced was questioned by security experts.

As it would be, the Mandera incidence was immediately followed by another terrorist attack incident in the Northern part of our country. This point in time it seems the presidency learnt from its previous failures and the president within 24 hours of the attack addressed the nation, with what was going to be a far reaching speech. This as some analysis rightly put it was the first time the president was addressing the nation after the Mandera incident. A number of things had taken place in between these waves of attacks, with protestors having marched outside the office of the presidency asking for the sacking of the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, John Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police – Mr. David Kimaiyo.

There was growing pressure from within the country that the above two officers were sleeping on the job and that their failures in their respective offices were now reflecting badly on the presidency because ultimately the buck stops with the president.

The December 2, 2014 statement by the president was by all accounts a Kantian moment from the presidency since it indicated that our country was at war. It is more or less reminiscent of President Bush speech after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The speech narrated the history of attacks in our country and pointed a finger at Somalia and by extension showed cause as to why our military is in Somalia. Some of the highlights of this speech are;

In October, 2011, the Government authorized the KDF to pursue the Al Shabaab militia into Somalia. This decision was right then, and remains so today.

It was also noteworthy that the president went all out to show that Kenya’s military is part of the AU mission. This is because some sections of the population have been calling for the Kenyan military to pull out of Somalia – if this would help reduce the attacks on the Kenyan soil.

Following requests by regional, continental and global actors, KDF joined AMISOM in February 2012. We remain part of the African Union mission to date.

This is why we have witnessed intensified extremist rhetoric against the KDF campaign in Somalia as well as support for murder and impunity. This reprehensible rhetoric has embraced Al Qaeda’s extremist ideas of setting up an Islamic Caliphate in East Africa.

However, the biggest news was the December 2, 2014 statement was the sacking of the CS for Interior and Coordination of National Government, Mr. John Ole Lenku and the surprise voluntary retirement on health grounds of IG of Police, Mr. David Kimaiyo. The surprise of the evening however was the man tapped to replace Ole Lenku to the docket responsible for Security. Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery had been a Member of Parliament from Orange Democratic Movement (opposition) and in so doing it seems President Kenyatta was following in the footsteps of the US President Barack Obama who nominated the outgoing Secretary of Defense, Hagel from the Republican Party.

By all accounts the new nominee who has of yesterday been vested by his former colleagues in Parliament is a respected military man. Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery is an US educated General and many people have faith that he is the man for the job.

However, one of the main areas of concern from the president’s speech was the apparent reference for the media to ‘tone down’.

Our national conversation, whatever its temper, is facilitated by our media. The media must step back from being an inert funnel of sentiments, opinions and messages, and become a true mediator and an honest broker of the national discourse. The media must not allow intemperate, intolerant, divisive, alarmist and stigmatizing views.

You can access the full Mandera Statement by the President here

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES.

The Rising Incidences of Insecurity in Kenya

Standard

Mapped out Areas in which there have been Security Related Incidences | Map from Kenya Open Data website

The main focal point for this year’s regional young leader’s forum was regional security and key among those things discussed was the Westgate incidence – of which the Kenyan delegation which I was part of, gave a presentation on. No sooner had we gotten back home, than a number of security related incidences occurred. Starting with an attack on Mombasa barracks – where a group of youths armed with machetes and knives attached an army barrack.  This was immediately followed by Kapedo attack. In this attack, junior police officers some of them barely six months in the police service were killed by bandits in Kapendo. They has requested for help from the headquarters – but this was not forthcoming. This weekend we woke up to the terrible news of Mandera bus attack incidence in which Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility.

Kenyan’s are angry at least those on twitter and they have been making their opinions known with #MySecurityMyRight hash tag. This is coming in the backdrop incidences in which touts stripped women and Kenyans on twitter who were against this barbaric acts came up with this hash tag #MyDressMyChoice.

The increasing number of these security related incidences can be attributed to a number of things – key among them  porus borders, the culture of corruption which exists in our country and the state reaction to previous security incidences. A classic case is the ongoing operations at the Kenyan coast, where security personnel storm into mosques and the extra-judicial killings which are prevalent at the Kenyan coast.

For a better understanding of the current situation in Kenya, I would recommend one to read the International Crisis Group Update Briefing Number 102, Kenya: Al Shabaab – Closer to Home. 

Download this briefing here: International Crisis Group Update Briefing Number 102, Kenya Al Shabaab – Closer to Home. [pdf]

This update briefing by Crisis Group observes;

One year after the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Nairobi, Al-Shabaab is more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya. But the deeper danger is less in the long established terrorist cells that perpetrated the act – horrific as it was – and more in managing and healing the rising communal tensions and historic divides that Al-Shabaab violence has deliberately agitated.

Apart from observing the root causes of these increasing spikes of security related incidences, the report goes further to point out five practical solutions. Whether our government will not heed is another thing all together. I am not even sure if the government reads some of these reports!

However, one of the glaring omissions from this report, of which Kenyan’s on Twitter have been requesting for, is the sacking of the Joseph Ole Lenku, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of National Government and David Kimaiyo, the Inspector General of Police – National Police Service. During their tenure, Kenya has experienced a rise in insecurity incidences. However, the Inspector General has been on record saying the National Intelligence Agency has not given him timely and actionable Intelligence to act upon. However, the NIS has rejected this accusation – with them leaking briefs immediately after an incident has taken place to  counter this accusations.

Among the many recommendations Kenyan’s on twitter have been calling for is the overhaul of the entire security apparatus and also the reforming of the security docket – with the creation of a homeland security docket [similar to the US].

For a better understanding of the online conversations currently taking place, check @KenyanPundit tweets esp. the crowd-sourcing of solutions on this question;

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES