And as my adviser likes to remind me, the trend was started by Somalia in 1967.
And as my adviser likes to remind me, the trend was started by Somalia in 1967.
There is an interesting debate on this question over at the Guardian. Following the terror attack at Westgate Giles Foden made the following claim:
In Kenya crime and terrorism are deeply linked, not least by the failure of successive Kenyan governments to control either……… These attacks are part of a spectrum of banditry, with corruption at one end, terrorism at the other, and regular robbery in the middle. Some Kenyans will feel that the conditions in which the attacks have happened have arisen because of economic growth in a vacuum of governance. Money that should have been spent on security and other aspects of national infrastructure has been disappearing for generations.
Two days ago the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohamed, responded to Mr. Foden with a denial of the charge that corruption in the country was in any way related to the failure of security forces to thwart the attack at Westgate. She reminded readers that:
The disasters of 9/11 or the more recent Boston marathon in the US and 7/7 in the UK – both highly developed countries – could hardly be blamed on corruption, so why Kenya? We do not recall Foden blaming corruption within the security agencies involved.
So what is the relationship between corruption and the likelihood of successful future terror attacks in Kenya?
There is no denying the fact that corruption is a huge soft underbelly in the Kenyan state’s fight against al-Shabaab. As I have pointed out before, the attack at Westgate showed Kenyans that AK-47s are not a menace only in the hands of cattle rustlers or carjackers. They can also be weapons of mass murder. So reports of police reservists renting out their AKs to criminals or being paid by the same criminals to look the other way do not inspire confidence in the government’s ability to prevent future attacks. Indeed last Friday Reuters reported that:
security officers, diplomats and experts describe a security apparatus that may be squandering skills built with the help of U.S., British and other trainers because suspects can buy their way through police checks and poor inter-agency coordination means dots are not joined up.
Add to this the fact that the country has about 600,000 light weapons and small arms in civilian hands (pdf) – including 127,000 illicit guns in Turkana County alone – and you begin to get the picture of why lax law enforcement, partly fueled by lack of funds and poor training and pay of regular police, but also by higher-ups’ venal proclivities, does not bode well for the likelihood of future Westgate-style attacks.
That said, to put terrorism on the same scale as carjacking would be a mistake, especially with regard to how the Kenyan state is likely to react to future threats of terrorism in the wake of Westgate. Obviously, due to entrenched interests and the administrative power (pdf) of the Civil Service the president cannot simply wish away corruption with a stroke of a pen. But he will be under tremendous pressure from the business community (which, in my view, is his number one constituency) to make sure that things that are singularly bad for business – like Westgate-style terror attacks – do not happen in the future.
Regularized murderous banditry in the less governed spaces in Kenya or carjackings in Kileleshwa are different from terror attacks in that the former are often localized “micro-events” on the national stage (even when they are of Baragoi or Tana River or Bungoma proportions) that rarely ever have systemic effects. Westgate, on the other hand, did have a systemic effect. And in a big way. As such I expect that the government will follow the trail and start closing loopholes wherever they are that might be exploited by terrorists in the future. This includes reforming the Kenya Police Service, to the extent that is necessary. It is hard for me to imagine that the president would risk failing to secure reelection just to keep a few corrupt officials happy.
So on balance Westgate might actually lead to a major push to rid critical state institutions of the scourge of corruption and to strengthen them with a view of increasing state capacity.
I could also be totally wrong.
There is a scenario in which the response to Westgate is al-Shabaab-focused and purely driven by the military (which presently has a huge PR problem with the Kenyan public and would want to save face) and other security agencies with little input from the political class. Such an eventuality would be a double bad because of the risk of erosion of civilian control of the military in Kenya (at least at the policy level) as well as a failure to reform critical domestic institutions to reduce the likelihood of future attacks (or attempts to bring back the bad old days…)
All this to say that on the off chance that someone asks you the question in the title of this post, the simple answer would be probably.
I am not a radical, or at least I don’t think of myself as one. But after reading this story about pastoralists in Eastern Kenyan, a rather radical idea came to my mind. You see, ever since man began living a sedentary life, history has proven that it is the best way to live. It offers security, provides opportunity for the development of a strong government, enables easy provision of essential services like education, healthcare and social care, among others. There are a few exceptions to the rule. The Mongols were a nomadic bunch that terrorized the life out of sedentary city states. But they were the exception that proves the rule. Civilization and human society flourishes in a sedentary setting, period.
So knowing this, I wonder if it would be a bad idea to make it government policy that nomadic pastoralist communities (in East Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa) be offered incentives to settle down. Not forced, but given the right incentives. They move around not because they love to, but in search of pasture and water. The government could dig wells and start grass farms for these communities. It sounds naive and outlandish but think of the difference such an initiative would make in two or three generations.
Now before you anthropologists come for my neck I challenge you to be honest with yourselves. Why do you believe that it is OK for the such communities to live the way they do, with their short life spans and limited options while the rest of humanity does infinitely better? And don’t tell me that they are happy with their lives. I doubt that they would be if they had the options that other people have. I hearken to Amartya Sen’s arguments here. We need to expand these communities’ options if we are going to develop a single united country. They are not samples of past human existence for our study and amusements. They are people who are ends in themselves.
This reminds me of a post that I have been working on forever (still coming) on the approach to development in Africa. The prevailing mentality is that the African is developed when he is not dying of aids, malaria, hunger, civil war and the like. The current development efforts all across the continent aim at keeping people alive and comfortable at a very low station in life. I think this should change. Sustainable developmetn in Africa will only be achieved through real transformation of African societies. China is doing it. India is doing it. Africa can, and will, do it. I know that some will argue that we should stop the civil conflict, eradicate HIV prevalence and do all other kinds of things before we think of putting refrigerators in people’s homes and housing them in modern houses. I say this is a heap of horse manure. Botswana, although with a high HIV prevalence rate, is doing fine. And the civil wars are not everywhere. Somalia, Darfur and Eastern Congo, compared to the rest of the vast continent of Africa can qualify as “isolated incidents” (yes, I can push the envelope on this one).
Before the US decided to use Ethiopia to invade Somalia, the southern portion of the failed state – including the capital Mogadishu – was largely run by a group calling itself the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU was into strict Sharia Law, something that did not go well with most of the secular warlords (who were simply out to make a profit from the chaos that is Somalia) and most of the West (read the US). Financed to some extent by Eritrea, (to Ethiopia’s chagrin) the ICU called for a Jihad against the Ethiopian government for colluding with the infidel Americans. Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia was partly motivated by the Islamist group’s support of the cause for the liberation of the Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia inhabited by ethnic Somalis and which has been the poster-child for irredentist dreams of Somali governments and warlords alike.
And so when the ICU seemed to be gaining too much power than the Ethiopians and Americans would have liked, a decision was made to take them out. It also emerged that the ICU was sympathetic to terrorist elements – inluding the plotters of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya (more than 200 Kenyans were killed in the attack in Nairobi) and Tanzania. Beginning in July of 2006 Ethiopian troops started moving into Somalia to take out the Islamists – and for some time they succeeded, even enabling the installation of the Somali transitional government in the sleepy town of Baidoa.
But now the Ethiopians have decided to pull out and the Islamists are back. As soon as Ethiopia withdrew, the ICU overran Baidoa and vowed to reinstate Sharia Law. This latest turn of events proves that the ICU is not a mere rag-tag group of bandits. They seem to mean serious business and perhaps it is time the international community took them seriously. Yes they have supported terrorists, but that can be changed by a stroke of a pen on a cheque book. They support the terrorists because the terrorists fund them. I am sure they can be co-opted into the global force for good in exchange for their restoration of order in Somalia.
And about Sharia Law, why should the US and the rest of the international community complain so much while it is the norm in Arabia and the gulf? What makes it different when the Somalis do it? I am all for respect for human rights and all, but I think it is imperative that global do-gooders (and all of us who believe in sensible liberalism) realize that justice is political and therefore should be pursued with regard to the particularities of the societies involved. A realistic approach to Somalia ought to allow the Islamic Courts to be if they can guarantee order and some semblance of a state in exchange for some cash and a promise not to fund or harbour terrorists. America and Ethiopia must accept the fact that the ICU has some street credibility among Somalis. This is no time for ideological struggles. Somalis have suffered enough.
The BBC reports that women in Niger have a 1 in 7 chance of dying during childbirth. The report also mentioned that more than half of maternal deaths in poor countries occur in Africa. I have talked about this in the past but it still is saddening to see such statistics and know that there are real people, real human beings behind them. IRIN also has a slightly positive story on maternal mortality in Somalia.
Turning to the bizzare, The Economist reports that albinos in East Africa are facing constant threat of death in the hands of crazies out to harvest their body parts – to be used by witches. This is the 21st century? How do people still believe in things like this? The Economist may have hyped it a bit, but the mere fact that such crazy things are still happening in communities in East Africa is shocking, and quite frankly embarrassing for Africa. I think it is time governments stopped pretending that people don’t do such weird things and go ahead and outlaw certain practices – like witchcraft and the like. Of course this may be a problem if some law-makers believe in that stuff too. And I would not be surprised if it turned out that some do because we are led by a brood of half-baked adults without a scintilla of statesmanship but full of superstitious and anachronistic nonesense that they present as “traditions.”
And lastly, a positive story from Malawi. The authorities tthere have adopted the use of mobile phones to assist in data collection. This discovery might help improve the standards of data collection across Africa, a continent where planning has been seriously hampered because of unreliable data collection and record-keeping.
So I keep reading stories about foreign governments like China, the Gulf States and South Korea that are planning on buying millions of acres of Africa’s arable land in order to provide food security for their citizens. From what I gather, most African governments are eager to sell 100 year leases in order to make a quick buck and then for 100 years condemn their countrymen and women to being near-slaves to foreigners in their own countries. How more stupid can our leaders get?
As a continent, Africa is the most food insecure place on the planet. Millions depend on food aid, even in supposedly more developed countries like Ghana, Kenya and Senegal. Some countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and nearly all of the Francophone Sahel have never known food security for decades. They have been permanent recipients of aid from the US and the World Food Program. It makes you wonder why it is not these governments making deals with their fellow African countries to guarantee the continent some food security.
Food production is what propelled human civilization. Mesopotamia, the Indus-Gangetic Valley, the Nile Valley, were all organised with an aim of improving food production so as to free up talent for other more meaningful human endeavors. Africa, nearly 12,000 years later, still cannot afford to feed its own people. It is not a question of land or water. The great lakes regions can feed the entire continent and still have a surplus. With the exception of the South West African countries and the Sahelian states, all of Sub-Saharan African countries ought to be food-secure. The fact that they are not is simply and squarely because of poor leadership.
And now these same inadequate leaders want to sell the land to foreigners. I am assuming that when foreign governments buy land they’ll treat it like they do with their embassies – provide their own security and run the show by their own rules. I wonder how different this will be from an outright recolonization of the African continent by more developed and better run countries.
We are still in the woods. And we are screwed for the foreseeable future. Like it is not even funny anymore. Our Mugabes, Obiangs and Zenawis continue to fail us big time. How hard can it be to run a country? Like seriously.
So this is turning into child play. It is out there, government of Kenya. Everybody knows that the arms are not for sure yours and that they might be destined for Southern Sudan in complete contradistinction to a UN embargo against selling arms to Sudan. Denying it only makes you look stupid and clueless. Give us facts and documents to back them. The other day I saw something that appeared to be an invoice on the BBC which was supposed to prove that the arms and tanks really are Southern Sudan’s.
Frankly, with Northern Sudan being crazy and the LRA continuing in their deranged rebellion in Northern Uganda, I think Southern Sudan should be armed to the teeth. If Kenya can help them do that so be it. We need to coddle up with them anyway – they have oil and we can permanently lock their dependence on our roads, railways and ports for trade. Not to mention our banks, schools and even to some extent the use of Swahili.
So I think we have no apologies to make to anyone. The US and the UN understand that Southern Sudan needs arms – to defend Abeyi and to keep the North in check. Plus they are going to be an independent country soon and so need a stable modern or pseudo modern army – I doubt if the Ukrainian tanks make that much of a difference on the military modernity scale. Alfred Mutua and the government of Kenya should stop acting like an embarrassed child caught with sugar all over his cheeks and own up. Yes we were transporting the arms to them, but it was all for a good cause.
On the other hand if the tanks are ours, well and good. Let’s produce the documents to back that up and demand an apology from the US ambassador to Kenya.
and on another note ….. perhaps to avoid any future embarrassments we should do something concrete about Somalia and their pirates. We need a regional initiative. Ethiopian invasions or Ugandan half-hearted peacekeeping will not take Somalis anywhere.
As I whined about the resignation of Mbeki and the ineluctable ascendance of one Jacob Zuma to the most powerful position on the continent, the story of Somali pirates seizing a ship with militray cargo destined for Kenya made me even more worried. 33 tanks, among other military hardware, were on the Ukranian ship that was hijacked by pirates from Somalia while on international waters off the coast of the failed state in the horn of Africa.
These developments raise a very serious question. For how long will the world sit back and watch as a few greedy men with guns terrorize an entire country, killing innocent women and children and depriving them of a decent livelihood? So far the consensus has been that as long as the mess is confined within Somalia then everyone (save for Ethiopia and the CIA) would pretend that nothing is going on. But now there is an overflow. Tired of the boredom of pillaging within their borders the rag-tag bandits of Somalia have decided to extend their activities to the sea, routinely hijacking ships for ransome and booty. They need to be stopped.
These 21st century pirates need to be stopped not just in the sea but also within the borders of Somalia. It is imperative that countries within the wider East African region come up with a plan of solving Somalia’s problem once and for all instead of merely containing it, as seems to be the policy of the regional military powerhouse Ethiopia and the United States. Somalis are people too – just like the Kenyans or Ivorians who elicited much international sucpport in their times of crises – and need to be allowed to have an existence worthy of human beings. The last eighteen years have shown us that Somalis, on their own, cannot rid themselves of the dystopia that they’ve made of their country. The international community should – in a Rousseauian sense – impose peace and set in motion a more transparent re-education on government and institutions instead of the current puppet government arrangement. Sounds too optimistic to you? To the gainsayers I say it can be done. It can be done because the vast majority of Somalis want it to be done. An international intervention will not be an Iraq, not even a Somalia-’93.
A few months ago, after the Nigerian election, I read a piece in a leading international newspaper that said that Africa had yet again failed at democracy. The article infuriated me because it was a blanket write off of the entire continent as being undemocratic. I thought about Kenya, Senegal and Botswana as viable democracies that were capable of holding free and fair elections and which had freedom of the press.
But then Kenya happened. A country that was largely peaceful and with prospects of becoming a middle income country in the next decade and a half suddenly imploded and descended into never-before seen chaos. An election was stolen by a man who was viewed as one of the better behaved presidents on a continent infested with autocrats and dictators.
How, after all this, can we convince the world that Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the CAF, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, the DCR and all the others are isolated incidents? How are we going to convince ourselves that we are capable of running peaceful and prosperous countries when all that exist around us are chaos and murderous wars? Total failure?
It is true that countries like Botswana and Senegal still remain stable and democratic and also headed towards economic prosperity. South Africa is also doing quite well, although I am holding my breath to see what a Zuma presidency has in store for us. But the rest of the countries either have wars, or some form of instability and those that are peaceful have poverty rates that are utterly inhuman, to put it mildly.
It is extremely vital for the continent not to let a working model like Kenya sink into the same pit that has the Somalias of the continent. This is because many countries in East Africa depend on Kenya for their own economic success. A failed Kenya would mean no hope for Somalia and serious problems for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, Eastern DCR and Northern Tanzania. A failed Kenya will also mean a serious blow to the spread of democracy on the continent and especially East Africa. Besides Tanzania, Kenya was the only other democracy in the region. Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi all have autocrats who would happily use Kenya as an excuse for them to stay in power.
If you thought piracy belonged to the 19th century, think again. This year alone there have been at least 26 attacks by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The latest incident involves a Japanese ship (the Golden Nori) that had 23 crew and tens of thousands of tons of inflammable benzene.
The pirates are demanding a $ 1 million ransom or else they will kill the crew of the ship.The situation has been further complicated by the fact that according to a 1992 UN resolution establishing an arms embargo, foreign troops are not allowed to enter Somali waters.The UN regulations have made it difficult for the US navy and Kenyan authorities to fully police this region of the Indian ocean and end the piracy.
Keeping Somalia’s lawlessness within its borders has always been tricky. In the past the many fundamentalist thugs running around in the country mainly dealt in illegal arms and smuggled goods across the region but lately they seem have found a new lucrative business – piracy and kidnapping of foreigners for ransom.
As negotiations go on for the release of the hostages it has become apparent that the Somali problem cannot be ignored for long if peace and stability is to be achieved in the horn of Africa. And with the US keen to win the global assault on terror, the last thing it needs is a failed stage occupied by these extremist thugs.