More on the Somali roundups in Kenya

Another must read is from Cedric Barnes at the International Crisis Group: Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya. Horne argues that the roundups specifically contradict the unity messaging offered by the Kenyan government after Westgate and are likely to backfire by promoting marginalization and thus increasing the persuasive power of extremists.  The operations highlight the extremely slow pace of security reforms in Kenya; the going rate to avoid getting arrested if you are of Somali ethnic background is 5000 KSh. Horne also points out that Kenyans of Somali ethnicity and those from the historically marginalized regions in the eastern and northeastern part of the country have always had difficulty getting identity documents from the authorities in the Kenyan government.

Here is Muthoni Wanyeki in The East African : Usalama Watch–State is Fracturing Kenyan Society: “A journalist in discussion with a senior Anti-Terrorism Police Unit officer tells of the ATPU’s alleged frustration with the whole operation — for breaking down its intelligence networks, having nothing to do with counter-terrorism and the likelihood of blowback.”

And Andrew Franklin in Business Daily: Let’s Change Our Tactics in Fighting Terrorism:

Kenyans of Somali origin have also been detained as potential terrorists, making citizenship no bar to this programme of racial profiling.There is no indication that any useful intelligence leading to the apprehension of the café bombing Al-Shabaab terrorists has been obtained although at least 82 “illegals” have been deported to Somalia.The reality is that if the deportees are genuine hardcore Al-Shabaab operators, they will soon return to Nairobi via Kenya’s undefended porous border.

The obvious question about all this: why?  At least one opposition politician has suggested that the operations are intended to curry favor with the West or the U. S. in particular for some reason.  Admittedly I am not objective as an American but I tend to think that the roundups are obviously enough counterproductive (e.g., they increase rather than decrease net terrorism risk) that the Kenyatta administration would not find any serious encouragement for this from Western governments.  Maybe I am naive, but its worth noting that the International Crisis Group is a firmly Western Establishment voice.

Kenya: Security, Corruption, Terror and Elections (and Railroads)

Nairobi Station - Rift Valley Railways

Nairobi Station – Rift Valley Railways

“On Security, Corruption and Terror Attacks” from the Mzalendo blog:

The link between corruption and the country’s susceptibility to is also recognised in the Parliamentary Report on the Inquiry into the Westgate and other attacks in Mandera in North Eastern and Kilifi in the Coastal Region. The report mentions systemic corruption and the link to terror attack stating:

“Corruption has greatly led to the vulnerability of the country in many cases including where immigration officials are compromised thus permitting ‘aliens’ who could be terrorists to enter the country and acquire identification. This enables terrorists ease of movement and are therefore able to plan and execute attacks without the fear of discovery. Further compromising of security officials enables ‘suspected individuals’ to fail to pursue suspected terrorists and enable them to secure early release when caught or reported in suspicious criminal activities.”

Of the link between Kenyan troops in Somalia and the increase in terror attacks in the country the report states, “It should also be interrogated why other countries such as Ethiopia and Burundi who had earlier sent troops to Somalia have not been attacked by the al-shaabab. Tanzania has also not suffered any terrorist attacks after the 1998 bombings. Is it because our security forces are weak, in-disciplined and easily corruptible?”

The report makes further note of nationwide systemic failure on the part of the Immigration Services Department, Department of Refugee Affairs; and Registration of Persons Department, also “rampant corruption by security officers and other government agents,” and  further that, “police officers are corrupt and lax too. They work in cahoots with alShabaab and are paid to pass information to the latter.”

Last week National Assembly rejected the Joint Committees report and the recommendations made therein. However questions and issues in the report raised with regards to the link between corruption and terrorism still remain.

AfriCOG report: Election Day 2013 and its Aftermath:

In commemoration of this historic election, the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) presents its own findings related to election day and its aftermath in this report. In line with its commitment to promote permanent vigilance by citizens over public life and public institutions, AfriCOG provides an account of voters’experiences at the polling station. In addition, the report details the counting, tallying and results transmission procedures, noting the varied problems associated with these procedures. Overall, in contrast to many observer reports, AfriCOG finds that the failure of electoral technology made it impossible to verify the manual counts of election results. This was compounded by a wide array of problems at the polling station, ranging from names missing from the voters’ register to voter bribery.

To conclude, AfriCOG recommends a series of reforms to ensure that future elections live up to constitutional standards for transparency and verifiability.

And “TransCentury sells Rift Valley Railways stake to Citadel”.  The RVR saga continues, alongside the SGR saga.

While mourning, and One_dering . . .

A piece that you might have missed on the Westgate attack that touches more of the bases than most: The Real Reason al-Shabab Attacked a Mall in Kenya by Bronwyn Bruton at DefenseOne.com.
Also: “Terror Strikes Nairobi, Crossing Borders” from Lauren Hutton at the Netherlands Institute of International Affairs (Clingendael).

And if you missed a wise perspective on the human context, here is Karen Rothmyer in The Nation: “Reflections on the Kenya Terror Attack”

Other lessons so far: from Abdul Haji, son of the Garissa Senator and former Defense Minister, who drove from another shopping mall (Yaya Centre) and helped rescue many at Westgate after a cell call from his brother who was stranded by the attackers, we learn that real heroes drink Dormans (and pack a pistol), and leave notes for the owners of cars they back into while rushing to rescue their brothers.  The story of the Haji-on-the-spot collaboration with the Kenyan Red Cross, a handful of plainclothes police and a kitted out group of what we might call “neighborhood watchmen” is just so deeply “Kenyan”.

Ambassador David Shinn appropriately noted on his blog that his biggest surprise about the Westgate attack is that it hadn’t happened sooner.  People I touch base with expect more, and we have additional attacks in Mandera and Wajir.  In order to stay safe and protect each other, it seems to me that Kenyans need to calmly but firmly and persistently press to get as much truthful information as possible about what happened at Westgate and take responsibility for their neighborhoods and surroundings.

The #WeAreOne_dering hashtag on Twitter has brought people from all over the world into the conversation about what really has really happened with this attack.

The United States, in particular, has spent millions on an ongoing basis, through the State Department and the Defense Department directly and indirectly on  “capacity building”, training, etc. for Kenyan security.  Given the meager preparation for and response to an attack like Westgate, we need to quickly recalibrate to account for the present reality and the immediate threat.

Here is my post from 2009 “Corruption and Terrorism/Security”. And from 2010 “U.S.-Kenya Relations: A counterterrorism versus reform tradeoff?”

And to address the religious dimension, here is an important post from African Arguments via allAfrica.com: “Somalia: To Beat Al Shabaab Kenya Must Expel its Religious Leader “Sheikh Hassaan” From Nairobi”.  And the National Council of Churches of Kenya has posted this flyer from the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya announcing a “We Are One in Prayer” event on October 1.

KPTJ Statement

Sharing the statement released by KPTJ this morning:

At this time of grief, we, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been lost or remain missing, and wish a swift recovery to all those who have been hurt. We applaud the contributions of our fellow Kenyans to support rescue and security work and medical care for victims, as well as the unity our nation has demonstrated throughout this crisis. We condemn this despicable attack and support all work to rescue those still trapped at Westgate, and to end the situation as soon as possible and without further loss of life.

Two things to read after the Westgate attack (updated)

Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick has a piece today entitled “Nairobi attack: Why Kenya and why now?”  that strikes me as solid and recommended priority reading.

As far as where things are in Somalia this is probably a good time to read, if you missed it, Matt Bryden’s report “Somalia Redux?: Assessing the new Somali federal government” for the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, which provides a sobering corrective to any notions that recent progress in Somalia is more than a set of limited early steps toward any long term formation of a stable state.

Add this on the Kenyan security situation: “Kenya mall al-shabaab attacks reveal security cracks” Africa Report.

Why Westgate? [updated 9-24]

I certainly claim no special insight into the minds of Al Shabaab, but by virtue of having been around long enough to have been marked in childhood by the memory of the “Black September” attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, it isn’t a surprise to read that “Westgate Shopping Mall is one of several Israeli-owned businesses in Kenya.” “Shopping mall in premier complex that is home to international brands”, Saturday Nation.

Likewise, Nairobi’s upscale malls are hubs for internationals and expats, as well as symbols of the prosperity and comfort that can be found by the affluent in Nairobi and a source of local pride. The psychological and economic impact from mass murder at such a place is entirely different than mass murder of a similar scale in some other town or village, or in the slums.

I have to say I don’t believe these people would be sated if they ruled all of Somalia without challenge.

[Update: This post was an early reaction to news of the attacks. With the crisis nearing an end after three days, we don’t seem to really know much yet about the attackers and the specifics of the operation. Variety of contradictory information and lots of opinions, some derived from some substantial amount of experience and knowledge, some from little.]

Somaliland Update

Home Decoration Shop

Britain warns of “specific threat” to Westerners in Somaliland and urges its citizens to leave. This is sad; I found Somalilanders to be most welcoming and especially appreciative of the interest and attention of Western visitors. Likewise, during 2007-08, Hargeisa just felt safer than Nairobi, or Addis or Khartoum for that matter.

Former Ambassador David Shinn recently gave an interview with the Somaliland Sun that will be reassuring to Somalilanders wondering about the impact on them of the U.S. decision this month to give formal recognition to the new Somali government:

While I don’t speak for the U.S. government, I doubt that the formal recognition of the new Somali government will have any significant impact on Washington’s interaction with Somaliland. I believe the U.S. government will continue to work with Somaliland as it has in recent years. While there may not be public references to the two track policy, the separate administration in Somaliland remains a reality and I believe Washington will treat it as such. It is up to the leaders of Somalia and Somaliland to determine the nature of their relationship. I see no indication that the United States has abandoned any commitments reached in last year’s London conference. Nor do I expect this development will change in any perceptible way U.S. policy on combatting piracy in the region.

See David Shinn’s blog here.

Red Sea

Kenya Update: election campaigns, teachers strike, Mombasa unrest

Close to 100 Kenyan civil servants tendered their resignations by Monday’s deadline in order to run for public office in the upcoming elections. The Standard reports.

Perhaps the most conspicuous is controversial Government Spokesman Alred Mutua who will seek the Governorship of Machakos County through the Wiper Party, formerly ODM-Kenya, headed by V.P. Kalonzo Musyoka.

Charity Ngilu, Water Minister from Kitui South, has entered the presidential race, the second female candidate along with Martha Karua. Ngilu was the first Kenyan woman to run for president in 1997.

Kenya’s public school teachers have gone on strike, from the Daily Nation:

School activities have been paralysed as teachers went on strike to demand for more pay.

The teachers defied a court order issued on Friday declaring the strike illegal and failed to report to the more than 30,000 public primary and secondary schools countrywide.

A survey by the Nation established that no learning took place on the first day of Third Term.

In Mombasa, a Muslim cleric, Said Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, suspected of involvement in terrorism has been charged with inciting the deadly riots following the killing of his associate Aboud Rogo.

Mudslides, Terrorism and Tourism

The death toll rose to three from the grenade attack on a nightclub north of Mombasa Sunday. In the meantime, in the Mt. Elgon region, on the Ugandan side of the border, there are 18 confirmed deaths from this season’s current mudslides, with 450 missing.

The Kenyan government protested the U.S. warning about a threat of attack in Mombasa as “economic sabotage” given the obvious potential impact on tourism, as well as a “betrayal of trust”, while insisting that it was ahead of the game and fully cooperating with U.S. agencies to stop any such planned attacks. Contrary to some initial reactions on twitter, the local bar attack was clearly not the kind of event that the American Embassy was warning about.

At the same time, Mombasa residents have accused security agencies, especially the National Intelligence Security Services (NSIS), of sleeping on the job.

“As residents of Mombasa, we are disturbed by these attacks which are occurring without any arrests. The police should work around the clock and arrest people suspected to have committed the incident,” said Mr Abdul Abdulla.

Since Kenya sent troops to Somalia last October, a series of explosions have rocked Nairobi, Mombasa and North Eastern region in what is believed to be retaliatory attacks by the Al-Shabaab.

Meanwhile, some American and British tourists on Monday down-played the travel advisory, saying the country was safe.

Mr Kevin Schmidt from California, USA, has been in the country for three weeks and said: “A lot of it is precautionary, they (US government) want to make sure everybody is informed,” he said.

“Man arrested over attack at drinking den,” Mark Agutu in the Daily Nation.

The bigger terrorism issue relates to the seizure of bomb making materials tracked to the port from Iraq and the arrest of two suspects thought to be Iranian.

U.S. Embassy warns of imminent threat of terrorist attack in Mombasa

From the Saturday Nation:

The United States has ordered its government officials to leave the Kenyan city of Mombasa over an “imminent threat of a terrorist attack.”

The US also suspended all government travel to the coastal city until July 1.

“This is to alert all US citizens in Kenya, or planning to travel to Kenya in the near future, that the US Embassy in Nairobi has received information of an imminent threat of a terrorist attack in Mombasa, Kenya,” read a statement issued by the Embassy Saturday.

“All US government travel to Mombasa is suspended until July 1, 2012.  All US government personnel are required to leave Mombasa.”

However, the Embassy said US private citizens were not affected by the travel advisory but “should consider this information in their travel planning”.

On Wednesday, two containers tracked from Iraq by international police were traced to the yards of a container freight station (CFS) in Mombasa.

This seems to be getting bigger coverage in the international media than in Kenya’s media so far.