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Will Uhuru’s tour of European powerhouses form ‘arc of triumph’ against terrorism?

By Gathenya Njaramba | April 10th 2016

Stung by two deadly terror attacks in the recent past, Kenya and France are working on comprehensive de-radicalisation and vigilance programmes.

During his three-day state visit to France this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta was accompanied by a huge contingent of intelligence gathering officers. They visited France’s military intelligence gathering centre and agreed on joint strategies to beat terror cells in the two countries.

In their bilateral talks, President Kenyatta and his French counterpart Francois Hollande agreed to confront terror threats through sharing of intelligence and increased funding.

Addressing the press after lengthy talks in Paris, the two leaders called for anti-radicalisation programmes, where France pledged financial and technical assistance to Kenya.

“We know the threat posed by extremist groups and we are willing to support the fight against radicalisation,” said President Hollande.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his France Counterpart Franc?ois Hollande when he was received officially at the E?lyse?e Palace in Paris, France. Kenya and France are working on comprehensive de-radicalisation and vigilance programmes. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

It is also instructive that President Hollande pledged support for Kenya’s military mission in Somalia to fight the Al Shabaab. He pledged financial support for African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) and strengthening of institutions mandated to secure Kenyans.

“We have to work together and defend what we stand for. We support Kenya’s efforts to bring peace to troubled Somalia. We also urge the UN Security Council to adopt proposed measures to bring peace in South Sudan. The prolonged conflict in Africa’s newest nation does not augur well for the region,” he said.

Last year, ISIS terror militia struck Paris and killed 130 people. Kenya suffered its deadliest terror attack when 148 people, most of them students, were killed on April 2, 2015 in an attack at the Garissa University College.

Saying terrorism is a global phenomenon, President Kenyatta said Kenya and France must work together to defeat terror.

“We stand together with France and offer our condolences on the terror attacks in Paris in November last year. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with France and defend our way of life. We have set up de-radicalisation programmes for our youth enticed into extremism and are grateful for the support from France,” he said.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the head of Counter Terrorism Centre in Kenya Martin Kimani, said terror needs a more united response from civilised nations.

“The world has realised that response to terrorism must also be global in nature. No nation is spared the pain of terrorism. We need a modern and united response,” he said.

Security matters

Ambassador Kimani said they had agreed on specific measures and secured funding to fight radicalisation and step up vigilance. He, however, declined to give more details, only saying security agencies will be more prepared.

In France, President Kenyatta’s first engagement was at the military intelligence base, where he was received by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Several Kenyan security officers met senior French police officers and agreed on several joint ventures.

In Germany, President Kenyatta and his host Angel Merkel also focused deeply on security matters, with Germany pledging more funds to counter terrorism. The German government is already providing training and equipment to the Kenyan police.

Germany is interested in countering piracy off the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, as it is an exporter of huge volumes of goods, including heavy machinery, through the sea.

President Kenyatta’s delegation to Berlin also included highly placed intelligence-gathering and security officers.

After the Brussels Airport terror attacks, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs Dr Markus Kaim told CBS news that “it is not a matter of it, but when Germany will also fall victim. We are as vulnerable as Brussels, Paris and London,” said Dr Kaim. Diplomats, intelligence analysts and police have also expressed similar concerns.

Since Germany joined the air campaign against ISIS, the terror group has called for attacks on Germans, especially at the Cologne-Bonn Airport.

Besides loss of life and disruption of the way of lives for majority of Kenyans, Kenya has suffered a dented reputation globally. Countries such as the UK, US and France have in the past issued travel advisories to their nationals against non-essential visits to Kenya, especially along the Coast. The advisories have hurt the tourism industry, a major driver of Kenya’s economy.

But with calm returning and no terror attacks reported in the recent past, tourist numbers are rising.

Should Kenya, France and Germany succeed in countering terrorism, the aptly named Arc de Triumph at the heart of Paris, will be of more significance to the three countries.

The construction of the iconic symbol in Paris was ordered in 1806 by French Emperor Napoleon to honour the army for conquering most of Europe. Will we see a repeat victory against modern day enemy in the name of terrorism? Only time will tell.

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