Britain will continue working with Kenya, region to weaken terrorism

OPINION |
The British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott during the launch of Land Rover Defender 90 at Oracle Towers, Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

On January 15, 2019, Al Shabaab attacked the hotel and commercial complex at 14 Riverside. Twenty-two people were killed: 21 Kenyans and one British national.

Sadly, Kenya and the UK have overcome other terrorist violence. This week marks the eighth anniversary of the attack on Westgate shopping mall. Sixty-eight people died. The victims were from 13 countries, including Kenya and the UK. Since then, in the UK, London and Manchester have suffered from horrific bombings and stabbings. And in Kenya the north east continues to contend with IEDs and other attacks.

When I arrived in Kenya as High Commissioner, I committed to strengthen our work to tackle terrorism and its root causes. As our recent history so tragically shows, in today’s interconnected world a threat to one is a threat to all.

Last month, we remembered victims of terrorism here in Kenya and across the globe. This month was the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US, and our attention turns to how we can build a more peaceful future. The theme for yesterday’s International Day of Peace was ‘recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world’. As we continue to tackle the unprecedented threats of the pandemic, natural disasters, climate change and climate conflict as well as terrorism, it is more important than ever that we work towards this mission together.

So, I want to underline the UK’s commitment to working with Kenya to ensure security, prosperity and sustainability for us all.

Terrorism is a complex challenge. Al Shabaab threatens all of us, regionally, from their bases in southern Somalia, taking lives and impacting people’s economic livelihoods through impeding tourism, trade and investment, and stability.

As a result, countering the group is one of the UK’s top international priorities. We are stepping up our work with Kenya, Somalia, and neighbouring countries and international partners. We want to help the region reduce the immediate threat, bring about the group’s longer-term weakening, and support conditions conducive to lasting solutions. And we must not forget the invidious threat posed by Daesh affiliates either.

In Kenya, we work across the security sector to develop our joint capabilities to prevent, disrupt and protect against terrorism. The British military helps train and mentor Kenyan forces, including those deployed as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, learning skills from Kenya forces and expertise as they do so. We also work with police and other sectoral partners on infrastructure and skills, amongst many other strands.

Any counter terrorism expert will tell you that hard security measures alone cannot address the underlying drivers of terrorism. Indeed, if there are only hard security responses, these are usually counter-productive, turning communities against those supposed to protect them. A more holistic response is needed to build resilience and reduce grievances. The UK-Kenyan REINVENT programme, formally known as Jamii Thabiti, is a strong example of promoting good relations between communities and police forces, building trust and thus security.

Through a joint Kenya, British High Commission and World Bank task force, we are seeking to reduce wider political disenfranchisement and economic marginalisation in the North East. Building trust between national and county governments and local communities is a key strand of this work. This will empower communities to build resilience against violent extremism and terrorism. Mandera Governor Ali Roba and I recently launched Mandera’s first ever sustainable urban economic plan, a Kenya-UK partnership that will provide jobs and livelihoods, particularly for youths vulnerable to radicalisation.

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