Kenya has been a strong partner of the international community in the war on terror.
As a continental leader in the battle against violent extremism in Africa, Kenya has been targeted by extremists we seek to defeat.
US forces stationed in Kenya, targeted in the January 5, 2020 terror attack, were not a random target choice.
Coming on the heels of the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Qassem Soleimani, there appears to be some connection between the two events. It is telling that targets in Kenya were chosen for retaliation.
US Vice-President Mike Pence, in a tweet following the assassination, indicated that Soleimani had been responsible for the murder of civilians in Kenya. Soleimani’s Quds Force is suspected of being behind the 2011 terror attacks in our country that triggered subsequent military operation in Somalia.
This is not the only attack perpetrated by the Quds Force in Kenya, with the New Yorker Magazine describing him as having, “orchestrated attacks in places as far-flung as Thailand, New Dehli, Lagos and Nairobi. At least 30 attempts in the past two years alone.”
Kenya, as the leading regional economy and geographically located in a strategic position – on the coast, bordering Somalia and on the frontier between largely Muslim Northern Africa and largely Christian Southern Africa – will always find ourselves as a target.
Our close relations with the west, and the leading role we have played in ensuring regional security increase this.
As a leading actor in the war on terror, particularly in Africa, the security of Kenya is intertwined with that of our partners. Efforts our troops are making to combat extremism brings security to our country and positively contributes to the well-being of our strategic partners. Their security is our security.
The Commander of the United States Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, paraphrased this well when he commented on the US-Kenya security alliance.
He stated, “our efforts directly contribute to counter-terrorism, maritime surveillance and intelligence sharing missions with our Kenyan partners.
This activity enables enhanced security and stability in the region and for America”.
This partnership is part of a cohesive strategy which President Uhuru Kenyatta has put in place since he entered office. We have significantly improved our counter terrorism capabilities.
The strategy is two pronged. The first of these is trying to address the radicalisation process. Nobody is born a terrorist, rather, people are indoctrinated and radicalised.
This has been a primarily domestic effort. It seeks to improve and work with local leadership to discourage the youth from joining radical groups being drawn to radical groups.
The government has exposed the disingenuous nature of many radicals, who often claim to be fighting on behalf of Islamic ideology as well as defending Muslims.
President Kenyatta has shown this to not be the case. He has highlighted how these same individuals often target Muslims, including holy places of worship.
In our country, Al-Shabaab’s activities have been most harmful to Muslims in the North Eastern region of the country.
The group’s activities have been detrimental to development and infrastructure. Even the education system has been harmed, with many international organisations that provide teachers withdrawing their personnel. The government has spoken out against the travesty that these Kenyans have been facing.
The second part of this approach is building up our counter terror capabilities. International partnerships are necessary in this regard.
The President has been travelling around the globe to strengthen these security partnerships.
Creating a unified front against those who undermine our national security is the only way this battle against terrorism will be won.
Although we are different, human beings around the world share the most basic of interests and wants. We all seek to live in a word free from terror and violence.
We all want to expend our efforts on the issues important to us and our families, such as education and development, rather than on hatred and violence.
Strengthening the partnerships which President Kenyatta has established is the only way international peace this will be accomplished.