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Building public trust best way to beat terror

By The Standard | Apr 4th 2016 | 2 min read

Memorial services for those who died in the attack on Garissa University were held last Saturday. No doubt, the April 2, 2015 attack by Al Shabaab militants marks one of the darkest days in our country’s history. On that fateful day, 142 students and 6 security personnel lost their lives.

But even as we empathise with those who lost their kin, it is time to reflect on that period and try to determine what actually went wrong. There are some truths; like the possibility of a security lapse to face up to and thereafter ensure a repeat is precluded; and the public as a conduit for terror.

It was reported at the time that security agencies failed to act on intelligence that pointed to an imminent attack and that despite the colleges’ proximity to the border with troubled Somalia, there were only two security personnel on duty. What’s more, the response to the emergency was bungled to say the least.

While many may argue no country is completely safe from terrorist activities, a fact that is reinforced by the deadly attacks in Paris on November 27, 2015 in which 130 people lost their lives and the most recent attack in Brussels where 35 people were reported dead, precautionary measures and acting on intelligence may serve to limit terrorist activities.

Smart policing is one of the solutions. There must also be a shift in the way the police and public relate to each other. Often, the police are treated with mistrust by a public that views them not only as corrupt, but bullies.

If we can reach a level where the public freely reports suspicious people and activities to the police and the latter acting on them, it will mark a milestone in the fight against terrorism.

It is equally important for the government to be proactive and move away from simply making promises and equip the police with good, modern security gear to make policing less dangerous. Laying the foundations for trust and nationhood would go a long way in making Kenya safe.

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