Al-Shabab’s Trail of Blood
On April 2nd, an awful attack on Garissa University in Kenya took place, which claimed the lives of more than 150 students. The cold-blooded killing of the students was one of the vicious attacks, carried out by the Somali terrorist outfit ‘Al-Shabab’. Many might not have heard about this massacre, and if they did it might have been presented under the ‘World News’ section with a passing comment. Of course, world leaders didn’t board a plane to Nairobi to march in solidarity with the Kenyan President Kenyatta as those leaders did when 12 people were killed in ‘Charlie Hebdo’ shooting. After all, which world leader is going care about an attack on innocent Kenyans perpetrated by Somalian terrorist group?
If you closely at the roots of terrorism which is causing havoc on Kenya, you might understand that it has gradually developed from these African countries’ colonial past. Before the World War II, the Somali territory was divided between colonial thugs of British, France, and Italy. After the end of WWII, few parts of Somalia are handed over to Ethiopia, while the other parts were incorporated into the Republic of Kenya, which gained its independence in 1963. This forced incorporation and reconstitution were all down by the colonists. A month after the independence in Kenya, the nation had a civil war.
A large number of Somalians residing in the Northern Frontier of Kenyan territory wanted to secede and re-join Somalia. This led to the ‘Shifta War’, which lasted till 1967. Kenya’s counter-insurgence in the Shifta war was not only aimed at Somalian secessionist fighters, but was also aimed at the pastoral community of Somalians. These villagers were herded to concentration camps, known as ‘protected villages’ and their live-stocks were slaughtered or confiscated, leaving them impoverished. The military forces of post-colonial Kenya criminalized the whole community of Somalians. Finally, in 1967 a cease fire was signed agreement was signed by Somalian government and the central government of Kenya basked in victory. From 1967 onwards, the Somali Republic went through decades of war, mayhem, and violence, which continues to this day in 2015.
Kenya’s north-east region bordering Somalia witnessed a lot of attacks despite the ceasefire, which gave way to local tension and instability. One-tenth of this region’s population is made up of Muslims or ethnic Somalians, and these communities lagged in development as there were no roads, or basic public facilities. The Kenyan-Somali clans’ conflict grew increasingly in the 80’s with the 1980 Garissa massacre and 1984 Wagalla massacre. Both these conflicts claimed the lives of more than 4,000 ethic Somalians. Garissa County, which has recently witnessed the brutal attack on students (Al-Shabab terrorists singled out Christian students in this execution), has been a predominantly resided by ethnic Somalians, but the university in Garissa had students, arriving from various parts of Kenya .
From 1969, the Independent Somali state was ruled by military dictator Mohammad Siad Barre. He more or less served like a mercenary to the Cold War Super Powers – USA and USSR. He was first an ally to Soviet and later jumped on the ship of US. Barre’s regime collapse in 1991, and for the next three years, a US-led international force occupied Somalia. As usual, the US government officially called it ‘humanitarian intervention’. Somali militants fiercely opposed the occupying forces. In Oct. 3, 1993 at least thousand Somali militants were killed by occupying forces, which is known as ‘Battle of Mogadishu’. Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” (2001) was based upon this battle. It was a routine US propaganda film, which concentrated on the death of 18 ‘innocent White army men’ under the hands of ‘black militia men‘(thousands of attacking Somalians were shown as maniacs and their deaths were only a statistic).
The US-led occupying forces eventually withdrew from Somalia after installing a puppet regime. From then on, for the last two decades, civil wars, clan wars, and gang wars became a permanent thing. In these decades, foreign ships (mostly belonging to European nations & US) took advantage of Somali state collapse by overfishing in Somali waters or by dumping industrial toxic wastes. Although in the northern part of Somalia, independent states were formed with functioning administrations, they were not recognized internationally. By2006, Somali Council of Islamic Courts controlled a large portion of the South Somalia. Al-Shabab outfit allied with the Council of Islamic Courts and they set their target on the weak transitional government in Northern Somalia.
A plan of such an invasion by the radical Islamic clerics reached Ethiopia and the government became heavily concerned. In December 2006, with the help of war-sponsoring US government, Ethiopia led a violent invasion into Somalia, defeating the ‘Council’, and took the control of ‘Mogadishu’. Now, al-shabab outfit which still held over a large number of territories in Southern Somalia played on the deep-seated hate of Somalians toward Ethiopia. ‘Al-Shabab’ which translates as ‘youth’ was aptly named as it fed on the limited opportunities for young people belonging to this region. It was said to have recruited 10,000 youngsters from the region, promising a high monthly wage.
But, why does the Somali Al-Shabab group show animosity towards Kenya, although the invasion was done by Ethiopia with the help of Western nations? After 2006, a UN backed African Union Force (include troops from Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia). The troops liberated key towns from al-shabab. In 2011, Kenyan troops entered Somalia and won over a very key territory of al-shabab. Apart from the 2010 bombings in Uganda (which killed more than 70 people), Al-shabab wanted to keep the fighting with in Somalian borders. But, after the 2011 loss, the terrorist faction developed global ambitions.
Compared to Somalia, Kenya is a more functioning and stable state. But, in the recent years, it encrusted with political violence and rampant corruption. Kenyan President Kenyatta faced charges in the International Criminal Court for carrying on ethnic violence. He was accused of subjecting the Somali minority in Kenya to vicious oppression. Kenyan police force, which is said to be the most corrupted in East Africa, seems to have made Kenya an easy target for Al-Shabab. The terrorists find it easier to travel through Kenyan border and cause violence rather than traveling to Ethiopia or Uganda. They can easily buy passports or visas from the corrupted officials of Kenya. Garissa County in Kenya is said to be the most corrupted.
The other biggest problem for Kenya is its weak security. In 2012, the Somali militants’ brought mayhem to a shopping center in Nairobi. 67 people were killed in what was known as ‘Westgate Mall attack’. This incident perfectly showcased the incompetence of Kenyan security forces, which didn’t plan for any tactics as the militants held the mall for over 80 hours. The recent Garissa university attack lasted for 15 hours. The Kenyan security forces were deployed only 7 hours after the attack began. The forces had a two hour briefing after that 7 hour period, and then it took two more hours to enter into the university. All these wasted hours gave the al-shabab militants immense time to slaughter the students one by one. A recent ‘Time’ article states an estimation that more than 300,000 Kenyans work as private security guards, while only 60,000 work in the Kenyan police forces (due to low salary).
The lack of diligent plans to eradicate such terrorist acts might make the Kenyan government to seek US or European assistance (or intervention), which might, in the near future turn the country into a military state.