Kenya versus terrorism

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. Kenya has a new tough terrorism law, albeit court has scraped some paragraphs of the legislation. So in general, how would you evaluate Kenya’s approach in fighting terrorism, does what government is doing work?

2. According to some media reports the Westem travel warnings may have pretty negative impact on Kenya’s tourism. In my opinion it is not easy to calculate it, but would you say that the West should be simply more aware of the fact that security steps may lead also to unwanted economic consequences?

Answers:

Tres Thomas,  Africa Political and Security Risk Analyst

1. The Kenyan government has taken an aggressive approach in fighting terrorism by sending its troops to fight al-Shabaab in Somalia and seeking sweeping anti-terror powers.

However, Kenya’s overall strategy has failed because it lacks vision and finesse. The country has still not secured its border with Somalia and has abused Somali-Kenyan communities in security crackdowns rather than establishing effective partnerships for fighting terrorism. Additionally, Kenyan police have often failed to conduct good police work that is required to gather quality evidence and convict terrorism suspects in court. Without addressing these factors, Kenya’s counter-terrorism strategy cannot work very well.

2. The U.S. should certainly minimize the degree to which its travel warnings are a destabilizing factor for the tourism industry in Kenya. At the same time, the Kenyan government has maintained its own curfew in Lamu county since the Mpeketoni attacks in June 2014, which has also severely hurt the coastal economy. If the Kenyan government wants to improve tourism and promote opportunities for local businesses, it should start with its own policies.

Anneli BothaSenior Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, Institute for Security Studies

1. The articles put on hold in my opinion will only have a limited effect on Kenya’s counter-terrorism efforts – for example measures related to the media should not have a drastic impact, nor sections dealing with immigration. Possibly the most severe challenge is directed against the NIS and the gathering of intelligence that is critical in the prevention of acts of terrorism. It is also important to note that its Anti-Terrorism Law is only one instrument used in terrorism-related offences, before it was introduced, the police made particularly use of its penal code and its organised crime act.

2. When tourists stays away it has an impact on the economy, but I’ve been travelling a lot to Kenya and tourists still visits the country. People might be reluctant to travel to the coastal region (although no serious incidents were recorded recently), but other areas of the country still attracts its fair share of tourists.

Christopher Anzalone, Ph.D. Candidate, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

1. The Kenyan government’s policies towards the Somalis living inside the country as well as its anti-terrorism legislation and practices are major factors in the increasing sense of persecution felt by many of the country’s Muslims, particularly youth. The brazen and suspicious assassinations (or “extrajudicial killings”) of controversial Kenyan Muslim preachers and others, reportedly by the counter-terrorism police units, play right into the narratives of militant Islamist groups such as Al-Shabab and Al-Hijra (formerly the Kenyan Muslim Youth Center), the latter of which has played an increasingly important role in recruiting and funneling Kenyan foreign fighters into Somalia to fight in the ranks of Al-Shabab. In the most recent film from Al-Shabab’s media wing, which documented the Westgate Mall siege in Nairobi back in September 2013, the majority of the narrative centered on Kenyan government discrimination against Somalis inside the country as well as the questionable practices of the Kenyan security forces, particularly the counter-terrorism police units. Although exaggerated, there are elements of truth in this narrative. Ultimately, abuses by the government and its security forces are counter-productive in the fight against militancy and are more likely to further alienate and radicalize communities that already feel that they are under siege.

2. Countries issue travel warnings in order to inform their own citizens of risks that may be faced when traveling abroad. As such, although these warnings clearly have negative economic impacts on the countries in question, it is the duty of countries to issue these types of warnings when there is sufficient information to warrant them.

David ShinnAdjunct Professor of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and to Burkina Faso

One of the problems in evaluating counter-terrorist efforts is that you rarely learn about successes. Hence, I suspect that Kenya has had some successes that we don’t know about. The negative stories such as Westgate Mall get widely covered. In general I worry that some of Kenya’s more draconian anti-terrorist tactics, such as rounding up large numbers of Somalis with little or no evidence of wrongdoing, only results in more hostility from the Somali community. I think Kenya needs to be much more nuanced with this kind of policy.

Western travel warnings have had a very negative impact on Kenya’s tourism industry and western governments are fully aware of this impact. This is a catch-22 problem. If western countries do not issue the warnings and then one of their nationals is killed or kidnapped by terrorists, the western government is harshly criticized. There should be an effort in any travel warning to be as precise as possible and not suggest that the whole country is dangerous. Unless there is intelligence suggesting that an attack is likely anywhere in the country, which I don’t think is the case, the warning should warn tourists against visiting certain geographical locations. If the reason for the warning is nothing more than a public broadside issued by al-Shabaab with no intelligence to back up the possibility of an attack, I think western governments should say nothing. They need to walk a fine line between alerting their nationals to a real threat and not getting caught up in al-Shabaab’s propaganda.

Morten Bøås, Research Professor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs-NUPI

1. The main challenge for Kenya is how to deal with the combination of grievances among its Somali population and arming the coastal populations. None of these are necessarily linked to al-Shabaab’s efforts to strike within Kenya (in order to raise the cost of Kenya’s involvement in the conflict in Somalia), but as the Kenyan government stepts up its anti-terrorism efforts these issues may be blurred through for example indiscriminate targeting of young Somalis in Eastleigh (the slum/suburb area of Nairobi with a huge Somali population (of Kenyan as well as Somali origin). LIkewise, the temptation to use the terrorist card against the grievances put forward by some groups among the Coastal population could also easily backfire and lead such groups into the welcoming arms of al-Shabaab networks.

2. Well it is a dilemma, less jobs, less employment due to reports about security threats to the tourist sector is of course bad news for the Kenyan industry and thereby the economy, and could at least indirectly have an effect on crime, security etc. but on the other hand governments need to give such advice and media of course will have to write about this so – thus, not necessarily helpful for Kenya, but a dilemma that cannot be solved.

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