Kenyans will never ever surrender to terrorists

In the midst of pain and anguish, our security forces made us proud. Even as we mourned, we were proud to see the Recce squad storm dusitD2 Hotel and rescue over 700 people besieged by terrorists.

Make no mistake, we are at war with a terrorist organisation that exploits our religion (I am a Muslim, and like many Muslims, I deeply resent how they misinterpret my religion). It exploits local politics and conditions to propagate a world view that threatens Muslims who don’t subscribe to their views, and has contempt for Non-Muslims. We must recognise unpleasant facts that require a change in strategy to support our men in uniform.

Let us learn from the Israelis. In the period between 1967 and 1970, Jordan was like Somalia- a failed state. Palestinian commandos controlled large areas of Jordan and used it as a launching pad for attacks on Israel. Israel responded with such vicious reprisal attacks that the Palestinians began to think twice before attacking.

We need to adapt a similar strategy. We need to equip our forces with the necessary fire power to respond rapidly and aggressively. Kenyan jets should be bombing Al Shabaab right now. Where are the drones? Kenya needs to invest in Special Forces that will be available on site within minutes – fully prepared and trained for door-to-door combat; ready for any eventuality.

Terrorist organisation

This is an investment we cannot afford not to make. We must also come to terms that Somalia has no government. Can you imagine a situation in Kenya where State House is attacked three times in six months? Is there really a government there? We must equip our forces sufficiently because I do not see a strong government in Somalia in the next five to 10 years.

Kenya and its allies have to force some changes in the thinking at the United Nations. Al Shabaab is still not classified as a terrorist organisation to date. The UN considers it a “spoiler of political peace”.

UN Resolution 1267 rated Al Qaeda as a terrorist organisation and consequently all UN organisations were banned from talking, dealing or helping them in any way. Ayman Zawahiri (de facto leader of Al Qaeda after Bin Laden was killed) keeps referring to Al Shabaab as a partner. Al Shabaab keeps pledging support for Al Qaeda. Yet the UN has buried its head in the sand. UN humanitarian organisations in South and Central Somalia keep paying Al Shabaab protection money with the full knowledge of the UN. Thus the humanitarian needs of the poor Somali people are being balanced against our security needs.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is considered a “peace keeping” force. What peace? You cannot keep the peace with a terrorist organisation. Amisom should be fighting terrorism aggressively rather than trying to fight with a confused mission and terms of reference.

Fight aggressively

Neither are they properly equipped to fight aggressively. Ethiopian troops, instead of Kenyan troops, are stationed on our borders. Who would be more determined to protect our country? Kenyans or Ethiopians? The only war to win is to take the fight to the enemy at his doorstep – wherever he may be and not hide behind lofty ambitions of peace keeping.

Al Shabaab considers itself a Somali nationalist force as well as part of a greater international struggle for Islam. Thus it appeals to local Somali nationalists. But the Somalis from Norway, Chechens from Chechnya, Arabs from Yemen and Kikuyus from Kiambu subscribe to the idea of fighting for a greater cause. Muslim scholars, writers and thinkers must debunk this propaganda.

Al Shabaab claim to be defending Islam. Over 70 countries have suffered from terrorism that has nothing to do with persecution against Muslims. Since 1945, Germany has neither invaded nor attacked any country – yet it is attacked by terrorists claiming to be Muslims.

Making excuses to justify the Nairobi attack, Al Shabaab claimed they were taking revenge on America for moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. What does that have to do with us? Do we have a Kenyan advising Trump to do that? Perhaps it is because Nairobi has over 70 multinational corporations that have headquarters here. CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC all have their African headquarters here – so an attack on Nairobi is big news. They kill our people to get attention.

I am proud to be Kenyan. I am proud to be a Muslim and I know millions of my fellow Muslims despise Al Shabaab. Kenya will never surrender. Kenyan Muslims will stand with their fellow Kenyans of all faiths. Terrorists do not speak for us. Terrorists and their distorted world view will not define us or mislead us. We are one Kenya, one people – indivisible under God. We will never surrender

Mr Shahbal is Chairman of Gulf Group of Companies

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