President Uhuru Kenyatta captured Kenyans’ mood last Saturday when he declared that the country has “fought courageously and defeated the terrorists within and outside our borders in the past and we shall defeat them again”. The key objective of all terrorist acts is to instill fear and despondency and force its target to change its policy or intended line of action.
But to paraphrase the words of the late American President JF Kennedy, the only thing to fear is fear itself. And no self-respecting Kenyan is going to succumb to the terrorists’ intimidation. Not now, not ever. Period.
One lesson to be drawn from past terrorist incidents from around the world, many of which left scores or hundreds of people dead and even more injured, is that giving in to their demands only emboldens them to stage more spectacular acts leading to more deaths. This is why Kenyans support President Kenyatta’s resolve that the country will not withdraw its troops from Somalia as the terrorists demand.
On the contrary, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) will stay in Somalia until their mandate — which is to stabilise the war-torn nation — is over. It is to be hoped, too, that the elements in the Somali government who at one time agitated for the Kenyan troops to leave their country before their job was done, will take into account the high cost it is paying — not just in the number of soldiers killed in war but also the civilians made up of men, women and children who die in terrorist attacks like the current one — to offer even greater support and co-operation to KDF in particular and Amison in general.
It is noteworthy that Kenyans have refused to fall into the terrorists’ trap of selling the latest atrocity as an inter-religious war despite Al-Shabaab’s ill-concealed attempts to paint their despicable and beastly acts in religious garb. Instead, Kenyans view them as cowardly acts whose major motive is to gain cheap publicity. This, no doubt, explains why the terrorists referred to the Westgate attack as the “Westgate spectacle” on their websites.
The Westgate attacks should awaken the conscience of all the people who support and offer succour to terrorists for whatever reason considering the number of deaths and maiming they visit on innocent civilian victims, particularly women and children. Surely, the pictures of these hapless victims must touch the hearts of all but the most callous killers whose consciences have been seared as by a hot iron.
The consensus is that Al-Shabaab relies on some financial and logistical support from segments of the Somali diaspora, including sizeable communities in Dubai, the United Kingdom and the United States. The terror group also used to get much of its revenue from its control of infrastructure — ports and roads — until it was routed out of Kismayu port and the capital Mogadishu. The loss of these revenue sources might have rankled the terrorists more than the loss of territory and it could very well be the driving force behind its terror war.
And even within Kenya, it is suspected that there could be some misguided elements who are sympathetic to the terrorists’ cause. That proposition is borne out of the realisation that the terror group could not have come into the country and succeeded in hiding its intentions without the support of local people.
Be that as it may, the expectation is that investigations into the tragedy would shift into high gear as soon as the Westgate siege ends and the truth will be out.
In the meantime, the country remains united in grief and in courage.