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Do more lest terror attacks turn northern region into a no-go zone

By Editorial | Jan 16th 2020 | 2 min read

As the country commemorates the first anniversary of the terror attack on the dusitD2 Hotel on 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi that left at least 14 people dead, senior security officers led by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i are holding high-level talks in Mombasa.

The war on terror is bound to feature prominently on the meeting’s list of deliberations. Not least because the talks are being held at a time when the long shadow of a recent spate of Al-Shabaab attacks targeting public servants in the north-eastern region is looming large.

In the last two weeks alone, at least 10 people, including three teachers, were killed in attacks at schools, in public service vehicles and in police camps. That figure excludes the tens of others who get maimed. There is also the wanton destruction of public and private property, including livestock, homes, schools, police stations and communication masts.

The attacks are a stark reminder of the threat of terror lurking in our midst, and that there is still a lot to be done to make our country safe. Does the surprise element in these attacks (as in other terror attacks, including the dusitD2 one) underscore a weak link in intelligence gathering that is so crucial in forestalling such ambushes?

While the Kenya Defence Forces’ efforts in Somalia have paid off by severely curtailing the activities of Al-Shabaab insurgents in major towns, we must remain cognizant of this ragtag militia’s ability to regroup and attack us within our borders.

The seeming indifference to these latest attacks has elicited righteous indignation, most recently from the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and civil servants.

Is it that the frequency has normalised the attacks? Knut has cautioned its members to assess the security situation and stay at their teaching stations in the north-eastern region only if they must.

In truth, the teachers and police officers – especially those not from the local community – have felt like sitting ducks in this region. You will excuse them for feeling unwanted and uncared for. Indeed, these attacks and their consequences are feeding into the theory that the country’s north is neglected.

And besides causing needless deaths and widespread fear among the population, these attacks from militia groups are depriving the region of a critical mass of workers that support the local economy.

Quite significantly, by driving out civil servants, terror is further disenfranchising a whole region: these Kenyans are being denied teachers, doctors, registry, immigration and security officers, and even traders with the interest and the money to invest. This is a key ingredient to progress and prosperity.

The end result is that a poor region will remain poor, with the danger that its youth, who have little to live for, will become easy fodder for terror cells looking for impressionable recruits.

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