Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News

Dozens of ordinary people were slaughtered by Al-Shabaab in Kenya last week. Without explaining the link, Al-Shabaab claimed the massacre was to express its objection to Kenya’s military presence in Somalia, a failed state. East Africa’s powerhouse has for years been viewed as a meddling neighbour by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab which routinely unleashes terror on Kenyan civilians to underline that point.

“The Al-Shabaab military group led by one young Kenyan, who we are told is a law school graduate student, who left somewhere in the north and went to attack a university with about 1,000 students. They went in early morning and attacked the school and killed 147 students,” regional political commentator Abdul Cassim Were told Sabahul Khair in the aftermath of the Garissa massacre, the deadliest since the 1998 Nairobi attacks. “They’re saying they’re doing this because the Kenyan government sent their armed forced into Somalia, and they want the armed forces to get out of Somalia.”

In addition to scores of Garissa university students, with those belonging to Islam spared, according to eyewitnesses, the attack took the lives of three police officers and three soldiers. Al-Shabaab allegedly applied the same modus operandi in Westgate, almost 18 months ago, where non-Muslims were separated from the Umma and butchered by this outfit. None of this is to suggest that there is an inter-faith war in Kenya, Were told Cii.

“In the country, I want us to understand this very well, the Muslims and Christians in Kenya don’t have problems,” the regional analyst noted. “This has nothing to do with the conflict. But now, the al-Shabaab has taken advantage of the Kenyan government which has been having serious problems with the Muslim community because the Muslim community feels that they’ve been isolated by the government, all successive governments. They’ve not been given their (due) share of the governance. They’ve been discriminated in terms of work, in terms of resources, in terms of education, in terms of representation in the government. Their lands have been taken in the coastal areas.”

According to the East African, the starting point was that Nairobi had treated the Muslim community unfairly, Were conceded, adding that coastal residents (including those in Mombasa) feel they are not part of Kenya. This ill-treated section repeatedly communicated its case with the authorities. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab, which objects to Nairobi’s military occupation, saw this as a “window of opportunity” to recruit and incite jobless coastal youths. Many others converted to Islam and went to Somalia for military training. And so, the chain of events took another dimension.

Much as he blamed Al-Shabaab for the massacre, the regional commentator was of the view that Nairobi was as guilty for creating an environment of inequality, discrimination and unhappiness among Muslims and easterners as well as northerners in general. The Garissa massacre is a direct consequence of these two factors.

“Al-Shabaab, knowing very well that: ‘these people have grievances with this government and their government has crossed over in to our country, we can use their unemployed youths and some of their youths who feel that they have grievances with this government.’ (They) use that window of opportunity to incite the Muslim youth community in the country to be able to be recruited in the Al-Shabaab militia wing and come back to Kenya and help with this organising crime,” he said, linking widespread inequities to terror and Nairobi-instigated radicalisation. “It is upon the government, really, to make sure that the Muslim community in Kenya feels they belong to Kenya. The entire northern Kenya doesn’t feel they belong to the country.”

Were blamed Nairobi, now under Uhuru Kenyatta’s baton, for polarising the community and antagonising Muslims, notably in the coastal and northern areas, for viewing all Muslims (whose mosques have been raided) as enemies in the war against terror rather than using “good intelligence” to fight imported terrorism. Turning to the anti-terrorism police unit, a reportedly notorious body, he termed it an “elimination” group. “It has done more damage than protect Kenyans from terror because they’ve been accused of killing of innocent Imams, of killing Kenyan Muslim youths.”

Clearly Al-Shabaab is wrong to take the lives of “soft targets” to make a point. It should slug it with the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF). The country continues to bleed as the blood-thirsty group tries to grab Kenyatta’s attention. Much as no massacre is justifiable, if Nairobi cared – and objected to the incessant loss of lives (peasants at Lamu, shoppers and workers at Westgate, and now Garissa students) – it would leave Somalia now. All the Al-Shabaab demands is that the KDF, accused of killing Somali women and children, get out from the neighbouring failed state.

The problem is Kenyatta’s “arrogance” and poor listening skills, Were said. The president probably admires George Bush, the bloodiest tragedy post-apartheid. “Pride can also bring arrogance and arrogance can bring destruction,” he said Cii of Kenyatta’s antics and disregard of intelligence warnings that an onslaught on Garissa was looming. The same can be said of Westgate and Lamu massacres, both during Kenyatta’s reign. “We need a leader who is humble enough.”