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We should not forget the round-the-clock work of Kenyan counter-terror forces

By Michael Mugwang'a | January 10th 2020

In the aftermath of the January 5, 2020 reports of Al Shabaab attacks in Lamu, many people in the north-eastern county were left reeling.

The Somalia-based group with links to Al Qaeda attacked three buses in Lamu and managed to breach security at the Manda airstrip. Manda is used by civilian flights, but is also part of an area where US military forces train in counter-terrorism tactics alongside East African troops.

Al Shabaab immediately issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, and said there were "severe casualties on both Kenyan and American troops stationed there.

The Mujahideen fighters covertly entered enemy lines, successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of a part of the base."

However, spokepersons from both the KDF and US military were quick to set the record straight, explaining that the group’s claim was issued to distort reality and inflate their success.

During the attack, however, a multi-agency group of soldiers was able to repel the terrorists and stop them from penetrating further into the airfield. At least four militants were killed and five captured.

While standard security procedures following any attack are ongoing, the Manda airstrip has already been re-opened, ready to serve civilians.

The quick response and ability to repel the terrorists and get back to business is a testament to the success of the collaboration between security forces and the local community. While this was an isolated incident, these attacks serve to shake the sense of security and well-being that residents of Lamu typically enjoy.

Paramilitary group

This is how terrorist groups operate - they aim to make their victims feel unsafe, to disrupt daily lives and increase tension as well as weaken local economies. But this is not the response that Al Shabaab will earn from Kenyans.

As a nation, our strength far exceeds that of a paramilitary group whose attacks are outside the realm of geopolitical norms.

We are too unified to let this group tear us down, to enable it to break our spirit. Elsewhere in the country, three suspected terrorists were recently arrested in Nanyuki. The trio allegedly attempted to enter a British military base, despite its high security level.

They were caught on surveillance cameras and were reported to the police who took them into custody. While detectives at the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) have not yet released information about the miscreants, they have not ruled out terrorism.

Thankfully, Kenya has a team of highly trained and efficient security and counter-terror forces to nip every threat in the bud. While isolated incidents, unfortunately, do occur at times - like what we witnessed in Lamu - without this network of brave specialists Kenya would be a far less stable place than it is today.

Security Council

Several countries in our neighbourhood - amongst them South Sudan and Somalia - suffer from instability that cripples their economies and leaves them in disarray. Economic growth and general development are impossible in such a situation.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has made it his priority to prevent spill-overs from these conflicts affecting our own growth and progress.

The Kenyatta administration values security as second to none, and for this reason we are viewed by the rest of the world as a rock of reliability amidst a storm of chaos. In Somalia, brave young men and women of the KDF lead our partners in the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The president has pushed for Kenya's role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council during 2021-22. So far the bid is supported by allies near and far, who see Kenya as the natural leader of East Africa in terms of counter-terrorism and stability.

Though the maritime dispute with Somalia is somewhat of a hindrance on our relationship with our neighbour, Uhuru has not let this affect the ultimate goal that Kenya and Somalia share - peace for all East Africans.

Within Kenya, we currently enjoy a high level of unity and cohesion - the key to prosperity. This is not the obvious state of things, given what we have witnessed in Somalia and South Sudan. It is the result of the extremely hard work and foresight of our trusted and dedicated counter-terror forces.

Under Uhuru’s guidance, they work day in and day out to ensure that Kenya is the place we are lucky to call home today.

Mr Mugwang’a is a communications consultant and former crime and security reporter. [email protected]

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