Stanley Kamau writing in the Daily Nation reflects on the persisting terrorist threat despite the apparent calm.
This article was first published by the Daily Nation on February 23, 2015.
We still have a long way to go with the management of security. The recent killings of Kabete MP George Muchai and former Moyale MP Philip Godana demonstrated that neither bodyguards nor heavily secured homes can guarantee anyone security. The State must step up its act. The country has been fairly quiet on the security front since the Mandera attacks last year. Of course, general insecurity continues, but the headline-grabbing grenade attacks that we had almost become accustomed to seem to have quietened. Either the government’s approach is working, or the terrorists are on a hiatus. Perhaps both are true. Sound leadership and political commitment to dealing with insecurity is a critical first step to the restoration of order. However, the calm we are experiencing should not fool us into believing that the threat has been contained. We know well that dealing with terrorism is complex. The work is never done. This moment of calm gives us an opportunity to address four critical matters.
First, is to develop an innovative counter-radicalisation policy to augment the counter-terrorism measures that the government is implementing. Our leadership should acknowledge that the combination of factors and circumstances that contribute to youth radicalisation cannot be cured through the use of force.
Undoubtedly, the government must employ legitimate force to deal with terrorists. Terrorists must face dire consequences for their actions. However, government action must be within the confines of the law; that’s what distinguishes the State from the terrorists. Therefore, even when the alternative seems more desirable or even popular, the State must uphold the rule of law.
Second, we need to take an intelligence-led approach to security. Police operations carried out after acts of insecurity betray either an absence of meaningful intelligence or the pursuit of other objectives. We often hear that intelligence reports of impending attacks are usually available but not acted upon.
Rather than increase the number of agencies with the power to arrest suspects, we should ensure that intelligence is shared in a useful manner.
Third, the importance of community partnerships cannot be overemphasised. The work of the national task force on community policing should provide a pathway to better engagement between community and the security apparatus.
Even if the Nyumba Kumi initiative is not adopted in the manner initially intended, partnerships between community and non-state actors will prove critical to addressing insecurity and radicalisation.
Blanket targeting of segments of the society from which terrorists recruit and the illegitimate use of force is counterproductive. It antagonises the very people whose partnership would provide intelligence.
Finally, the critical role of county governments in the management of security at the local level should be recognised. Even though the constitution allocates the security function to the national government, a recent study by a local security think tank, CRISPS, demonstrated that county governments also have a role. The national and county governments should coordinate their disparate efforts.
Mr Kamau is a postgraduate student at the University of Oxford. (Stanley.email@example.com)