A number of years ago, former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon identified terrorism as a “significant threat to peace and security, prosperity and people.”
In other words, peace, security and prosperity can only thrive when terrorism has been defeated. While it is still a danger then it is hard for a society, any society, to truly improve.
So, it was strange to hear that a group of former top US State Department officials and humanitarian figures want the United States to block Kenya’s bid to have the Al Shabaab militants blacklisted by United Nations as a terrorist group at the UN Security Council.
The 16 signees on the letters to the Trump administration, Cabinet members and leading members of Congress warned that the Kenyan proposal could harm humanitarian efforts in Somalia.
Firstly, this is a bizarre statement to make by those who were principally involved in the war on terror. When the US is fighting a foe, like Al Qaeda or ISIS, these organisations are placed on the terrorist organisation blacklist.
It is clear that a threat is a threat, and this clear-headed purpose allowed the US and its allies to rid the Middle East of ISIS and severely deplete Al Qaeda’s global ability to perpetrate terror attacks.
Secondly, as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made it clear, the lives of unfortunate civilians can only improve with the absence of a terrorist organisation like Al Shabaab. While the Somali-based terrorists are still a threat, then the people will continue to suffer.
This is why Kenya’s approach to have Al Shabaab designated as a terrorist organisation at the United Nations is so crucial. It is part of an overall effort by government and security forces to stem the threat of terror, not just from our cities and the border areas, but also from Somalia itself.
If the festering wound of Al Shabaab continues then Somalia and its people continue to suffer, and this has a knock-on effect in Kenya.
The diplomatic offensive began recently at the UN, making the case that fighting Al Shabaab should be a global consensus issue because it has far-reaching aspects far beyond our region.
Unfortunately, the fact that the US Permanent Representative to the UN has already attempted to delay the Kenyan action is a worry, because it seems that they are buying into this false equation that stronger sanctions on Al Shabaab will hurt civilians.
Space to maneuverer
It is actually the other way around. The greatest human right is the right to life, and this is a right that Al Shabaab works day and night to extinguish.
Kenya is right to prioritise the potential loss of life in the long term to some lesser rights in the short term, and should be using all military, diplomatic, legal and economic tools at his disposal.
This is part of the reason President Uhuru Kenyatta met with 18 Heads of State or their representatives at home and overseas in the last month. True to Uhuru’s warning, no single country can combat terrorism alone.
While Al Shabaab continues to exist and spread fear and terror it will inspire and give hope to other global terrorists, those who threaten many other parts of the globe. One increasingly understood element in the war against terrorism is the way groups from across the world share information, best practices, funds and arms.
By allowing Al Shabaab any space to maneuverer and not tightly nailing the lid on the coffin of its future, it will continue functioning, threatening and murdering.
The Kenyan government appears to understand what Ban Ki-moon and others have enunciated, that peace, security and prosperity cannot exist alongside terrorism. They are polar opposites of each other, and when one exists the other cannot.
The world would certainly be a safer and more prosperous place if more world players became more proactive against terrorism.