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Failure to blacklist Shabaab shouldn't dampen terror war

OPINION
By David Machio | September 6th 2019

Kenya’s attempt to have Al Shabaab blacklisted by the United Nations, designated as a terror group, shamed and sanctioned by the international body, should not be controversial.

Currently, our troops are fighting and dying to protect the region from these bloodthirsty Islamic fundamentalists. Indeed, our troops are significant players in the 22,000 strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM, which dates back to 2007, also has troops from across East Africa; Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti.

But localised and regional military efforts in this globalised age will never suffice. Fighting terrorism is a global struggle, with global implications.

Al Shabaab has no borders in their international fight against the “infidel”. Their so-called fundamentalist view of Islam is an insult to their own religion. In fact, there is nothing fundamentally Islamic about it. It is warped and twisted. They have distorted a peace-loving religion into an expansionist and aggressive political ideology.

And this is why the UN and this particular recognition is so important. Al Shabaab has killed and maimed our brothers and sisters in our streets in horrific and cowardly terrorist attacks. They attack our soldiers regularly, and often with wicked success.

Former US Secretary of State once said: “We're in a new world. We're in a world in which the possibility of terrorism, married up with technology, could make us very, very sorry that we didn't act.”

And act we must. And this is not a battle for Kenya or East Africa alone, is for the entire international community.

So why the controversy? Why is Kenya not receiving the support it needs in this battle? The blacklisting process has been rejected by some because it supposedly overlooks the human rights angle.

This is ridiculous and stinks of double standards. Were these Islamists to gain swathes of land in the Middle East or target western targets in the West would we be having this same debate? It appears that for some, East Africa should have its own rule book.

It should be noted that Kenya has been fighting the terror group for six years with much success. Has it been fighting everybody in Somalia? Has this meant closed-minded military brutality, like in other well-known counter-terror efforts around the world? The answer to both these questions is no.

This is because President Uhuru Kenyatta and his team haven’t given up on the civilian aspect of this battle for hearts and minds. And they shouldn’t. There is a real and deep understanding of the ongoing importance of buttressing the Somalia government. For if Somalia was to fall deeper into lawlessness, the whole region would pay a price.

And let’s remember what that price is; it is Jihadi violence. Let’s not forget that Jihadi attackers blew up the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998 killing over 200, and wounding over 4,000.

Kikambala

In 2002, scores were killed in the attack on the Kikambala Hotel in Mombasa. Between 2011 and 2012, at least 17 attacks involving grenades or bombs terrorised our lands with at least 48 people killed in Dadaab, Wajir, and Garissa as well as attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa.

These attacks were not against military targets. They were against ordinary people in bars and clubs, churches and shops, bus stations and police cars.

Of course, none of us can forget the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall or the 2014 attacks in Lamu or the 2015 attacks in Garissa where 150 people were killed. Successful counter-terrorism activity has in recent years managed to limit the attacks with the DusitD2 tragedy being the exception, not the norm.

So just as here in Kenya, we seem to be making progress, we cannot afford to be hindered by the international community turning our backs on this effort. Our soldiers fight and die to protect our region to defend our common civilisation. We expect our friends at the UN to stand by us in this fight.

The writer is a Human resource expert

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