Governance, social justice key in fight against terrorism

Five years of attacks by the world’s largest armies were needed to take out one of the most ruthless and extreme regimes in human history. Since its establishment in June 2014, ISIS has ethnically cleansed and enslaved minorities, raped countless women, beheaded journalists and massacred so-called “infidels,” recruited thousands to its diabolical army of terror which was guilty of what the UN concluded were crimes against humanity.

The relentless attacks by the powerful 79 partners in the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS, and parallel interventions by Russia and Iran, have brought about liberation of the last civilians and nullification of the so-called caliphate in the Middle East after five years.

It didn’t come as a surprise when Kenya joined the coalition against ISIS. Behind the warm gaze and big smile of President Uhuru Kenyatta is a shrewd, tough and focused mind that understands the threat of terror networks. In that sense, Kenyatta embodies the attitudes of all of Kenya - a nation that has suffered attacks by Al Shabaab. The President had long claimed our country’s seat in international forums that deal with security matters. In June, Nairobi will host UN Secretary General António Guterres and the UN Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies in yet another forum. In 2021-22 Kenyatta is advocating for Kenya to take part in the highest international body for peace and security, the UN Security Council.

The President works to embolden international security cooperation because it is absolutely essential to break the financing and economic infrastructure of such groups and prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders. But fighting terror cannot be done only abroad. It first and foremost requires action at home. In that sense, the domestic and foreign programmes are inseparable.

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Terror is born in the hearts of sick individuals, but it matures into large scale operations when essential public services are lacking and opportunities for the youth are absent. Several years ago, it would have been unthinkable to outsiders that such a group would so quickly and dramatically rise to power, but for many insiders - the citizens of Syria and Iraq – this was an obvious occurrence that followed their governments’ neglect of all social services. Similarly, there is a reason that Al Shabaab stands for “Youth” in Arabic. It draws frustrated young people into the trap of delusion about social order when the state fails to offer plausible solutions.

According to a survey recently released by FinAccess, measuring the access, usage, quality and impact of financial services in Kenya. Six out of ten Kenyans use informal borrowing solutions such as family, friends and chamas (self-help groups). As we have witnessed when poverty and despair brew for too long, they are capitalized by extremists and their fundamentalist delusions become popularised.

The Big Four is therefore an ambitious plan to transform our country into a hub of opportunity and move people away from the trajectory that leads to violence. Kenyan society has repeatedly signaled its enthusiasm for the vision by engaging in the pilot phase of the universal health care programme in Isiolo, Machakos, Nyeri and Kisumu counties, and most recently by registering for the voluntary scheme known as “Boma Yangu” for affordable housing.

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Now Parliament must get on with it too. All factions must stand together. A handshake and affirmations of unity are good - but they are not enough. For the sake of a secure and prosperous Kenya, parties must end bickering and fast-track necessary measures for the Big Four to succeed.

Our people expect that of Parliament. Security, governance and social justice are intrinsically linked. Without either of the three, it is too easy for a country to quickly descend into a state of terror. 

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- The writer is former Thika MP

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GovernanceSocial JusticeTerrorism