Why terrorist target Kenya and not Ethiopia
Murithi Mutiga, in yesterday’s issue of the Sunday Nation: “The question is often asked why Ethiopia, which has brutally intervened in Somalia many times . . . does not suffer terrorist attacks.” The columnist observed, “Ordinary Ethiopians are the main guarantors of their nations peace . . . they have the Nyumba Kumi (Ten Houses) community policing set-up which means that a suspicious stranger would be reported very rapidly to the authorities.” We have community policing here; why is it not effective? Maybe more importantly; do we care who lives next door, in the next compound? By Michael Wambugu-Revival Spring Magazine
Here below is the article.
Now that the immediate horror of the events at Westgate has faded somewhat we must, as a society, reflect on the lessons to be drawn from that disaster.
One of them is that corruption is a cancer that is the leading contributor to many of our self-inflicted crises.
The question is often asked why Ethiopia, which has brutally intervened in Somalia many times and which has a bigger ethnic Somali population than Kenya’s, does not suffer terrorist attacks.
The answer is that Ethiopians are at once fiercely patriotic and much less corrupt than other East Africans with the possible exception of Rwanda under Paul Kagame.
And not just Ethiopian public officials. Ordinary Ethiopians are the main guarantors of their nation’s peace. Perhaps because of their history with Marxism, they have the Nyumba Kumi(Ten Houses) community policing set-up which means that a suspicious stranger would be reported very rapidly to the authorities.
In Kenya, the people charged with protecting the nation’s borders — the immigration department and the police — are legendary for their appetite for bribes.
In a 2010 paper on the foreign Jihadist element within al-Shabaab, Prof David Shinn, an American academic and former ambassador, noted that one of the challenges Osama bin Laden faced in trying to set up a base in Somalia was the level of corruption in countries such as Kenya which was a key conduit for men and material.
“Al-Qaeda underestimated the cost of operating in Somalia. Getting in and out of the country was costly, while expenses resulting from corruption in neighbouring states were high.”
Al-Shabaab certainly exploited that culture of corruption in planning and executing their latest attack. There is no evidence that corruption was involved in giving planning permission for the construction on the contentious plots in Westlands.
But on March 6, 2009, Lands Minister James Orengo gave a press conference in which he said the government would demolish several buildings in that area. He pointed out that this zone was a riparian reserve (nature makes this point eloquently every time there is a heavy downpour because the area always floods). At any rate, he said, the City Council allocated the plots for construction of residential and not commercial developments.
Nothing came of those threats. But one of the reasons the Westgate mall was identified as a prime terrorist target was the fact that it is so difficult to defend, standing as it does smack next to a road, in contrast to other malls in the city which have a security barrier some way away from the main building.
The thing about Kenya is that we suffer the most spectacular reverses — the 1998 US embassy bombings, the 2007/8 post-election violence — but we also often learn lessons and rebound strongly.
There are few countries in the world which have responded to a near-civil war with as comprehensive a set of reforms and institutional changes as Kenya has known in the last six years.
The Westgate terror attack should be another wake-up call. We must see some major changes to our approach to security matters.
We should take lessons from Ethiopia on training security personnel to love their country and to resist the temptation to sell out to terrorists for a few thousand bob.
And we should re-examine the legacy of icons like Wangari Maathai and learn not to value development above values.
By Murithi Mutiga-nation.co.ke