On Monday morning I beat the Chinese Internet police by using a proxy website and logged into Facebook (which is illegal and banned in China; as is Twitter, YouTube, WordPress and a host of news websites including my favorite, The Guardian).
One of the first posts I read on my timeline was written by a Kenyan journalist friend of mine, it said “Now Mr.President and all the relevant security apparatus in this country..this is no time to issue speeches, threats and the likes…if the solution to peace in Kenya is withdrawing our troops from Somalia..so be it!!People are dying every week and the perpetrators are laughing their lungs out somewhere”.
She was reacting to the bombs that went off in commuter buses in Nairobi on Sunday. This tragedy followed similar outrages that occurred in Mombasa on Saturday. The Somali based Al-Shabaab is thought to be behind the spate of attacks.
Following the most recent attacks on innocent civilians President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “The terrorists would like a war of religion, bringing to an end our history of tolerance. This country will not allow it. The terrorists will be treated as the vicious criminals they are, and our tradition of easy coexistence will be maintained”. The President’s assessment of Al-Shabaabs motives in launching a war against the common man is correct.
This group is indeed attempting, through targeted attacks, to tar the entire Somali community with the same brush. Their goal is to ensure an equation that states Somali=Terrorists. When one examines the 9-11 Twin Tower attacks, you realize that one of the outcomes of this attack by fanatical men was an increased number of cases of racial profiling and religious discrimination. All of a sudden, a community that was part and parcel of the American melting pot became the ‘other’. A people who weren’t really American. A people who you were scared to date, be friends with and share a plane seat with. An African-American comedian joked that after 9-11, the Moslem-Americans took the heat off the black community. They were the ones that everyone now hated. While he said that in jest, the sad truth is, there was some validity in the sentiment.
While I agree with President Uhuru’s strong words, I think that he forgot to mention one thing. The attacks that the terrorist cowards are launching against civilians is a strategic move. These fellows are trying to turn Kenyans against their government’s involvement in pacifying Somalia. And as my friend’s Facebook post shows, they are becoming successful.
I can’t even begin to imagine just how scary those random bomb blasts are for my Kenyan brothers and sisters. They are random and cruel. I too would want my government to do anything to make it stop. And if those terrorists were reasonable human beings, perhaps one could negotiate with them. Sadly however, they are not reasonable people. They are cold, inhuman people who’ve lost the part of themselves that is human. You cannot negotiate with animals. I mean, what assurances would the Kenyan government have that if it left Somalia Al-Shabaab wouldn’t continue launching attacks on Kenyans? After all, their ideology of international jihad doesn’t end in Somalia’s borders. Their ideology dictates that as long as there is land that isn’t under fundamentalist Islamic rule, their religious war continues. Kenya isn’t Al-Shabaab’s only target. So is Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and, yes, Rwanda as well.
Al-Shabaab’s problem with Kenya is that it hasn’t allowed it free rein in Somalia. But free rein in Somalia isn’t Al-Shabaab’s endgame. Their endgame is to see the rest of the region become as place where women are hidden under a veil, children are banned from watching television and where men cannot play football. In other words, they want to turn our beautifully diverse East Africa into a Taliban-style territory. We mustn’t allow that to happen. I stand with Kenyans. Be strong. Be resolute. We are behind you.
This article was previously published in The New Times