Al-Shabbab, an organized terror network, has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack at yesterday’s Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in which 39 people are known to have lost their lives and more than 60 others injured. As the dust settles, the big question on the lips of many Kenyans is why Al-Shabbab targeted Kenya and why Westgate shopping mall turned out to be the target of choice.
For pundits who have been following Kenyan politics, the Al Shabbab attack was long overdue. Kenya has been fighting a proxy war for United States in Somalia since the days of former President Mwai Kibaki. After a series of NSIS stage-managed grenade attacks in Nairobi which were blamed on Al-Shabbab without evidence, the Kenyan government invaded Somalia, allegedly to pursue terrorists. In the process, the Kenya Defence Forces killed innocent civilians, women and children as the government seized on the attacks to declare victory against Al-Shabbab and the liberation of Somalia from terror gangs. As a punishment, Al-Shabbab descended home yesterday and the terror group left no doubt that it had paid Wakenya a visit.
This is because as the crisis unfolded, Al-Shabbab sent a message through their Twitter handle @HSM that the Kenyan government “is pleading with our Mujahideen inside the mall for negotiations”. The message added that “there will be no negotiations whatsoever at #Westgate”.
Another sign that points to Al-Shabbab’s involvement is the fact that the terror group members were not interested in stealing anything from Westgate but in killing people. Secondly, they identified Muslims by requesting hostages to cite an Islamic prayer or to read an Islamic text before being released. In any case, Al-Shabbab has officially claimed responsibility for the attack, something they never did with past grenade attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa.
To underline the main reason behind the attack, the group said in a tweeter message that “For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land.” If this shift is long-term, then Kenyans are in for a lengthy period of blood-bath, deaths and destruction of property.
Another reason which may have led to the attack can be linked to the government’s handling of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) secessionist movement in Mombasa. While talking tough, the Jubilee government has been busy, harassing and killing innocent Muslims in Mombasa in the name of wiping out MRC members which has also been labelled a terrorist organization by the government. For Al-Shabbab, the attack of Muslims at the Coast is yet another evidence of persecution of Muslims by the government of Kenya. For this reason, a major terrorist attack in Kenya was just a matter of time.
Another quarrel Al-Shabbab has with the Kenyan government is that since the grenade attacks began especially in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenyans of Somali origin (especially those resident in Eastleigh in Nairobi) have been under attack, harassed by security forces, intimidated, arrested by police or tortured while in police custody. In fact, it is an open secret that Kenyans of Somali origin are treated as second class citizens in their own country while they have the “potential terrorist” stigma which has consistently been planted on them by the government through a collaborative media. Added to this group are real Somalis who have sought refuge in Kenya following destabilization of Somalia due to lack of a strong government, Al-Shabbab activities and, most importantly, Kenya’s war of aggression against Somalia which began 2 years ago. The cumulative ill-treatment of Kenyans of Somali origin and bona fide Somali nationals in Kenya, Kenya’s war of aggression in Somalia and indiscriminate killing of Muslims (and their leaders) in Mombasa by the government is what brewed the Al-Shabbab attack on Kenyan soil.
Why Westgate was targeted
Westgate shopping mall may have been the target of choice because its clientele are the filthy rich class of Kenyans together with their equally opulent expatriate counterparts. Traditionally, Islamic terrorists usually target Western nationals or enterprises, prime business establishments owned by “the enemy” or American military installations. Westgate is known to house a series of Israeli-owned businesses and given the on-going conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, disrupting Israeli-owned businesses while killing the rich members of the Kenyan society and their expatriate counterparts in revenge for Muslim deaths at the hands of the Kenyan government could have been a good motivation for staging the attack at Westgate.
Sad as it sounds, Kenya has no security capabilities of stopping terrorist attacks especially in Nairobi and if the al-Shabbab leadership has decided to stage operations in Kenya, the country’s population should be bracing for even more vicious attacks. Talk by Uhuru Kenyatta that the government “will hunt down the perpetrators wherever they turn to” is empty talk. Why?
Despite the dramatic nature of the attack, complete with armed terrorists exchanging fire with security officers and the army, a witness speaking on TV said that he saw one of the terrorists changing clothes before joining them in walking majestically out of the mall. Instead of detaining everybody who was leaving the Mall for screening to ensure that no terrorist escaped, Kenya’s security left the door wide open.
To stop the terrorist attacks, Kenya should pull out of Somalia where the government has been spending billions of tax payer’s money on a hopeless war while more than 10 million Kenyans are faced with starvation. Secondly, the government must stop harassing law-abiding Kenyans of Somali origin or any Somali national who has sought refuge in Kenya. Thirdly, the government should stop harassing and killing innocent civilians in Mombasa in the name of hunting down MRC members.
Kenya has too many internal problems which the government ought to be addressing instead of engaging in adventurous operations in Somalia where the government has been claiming false victories. The Westgate attack is a direct consequence of Kenya government’s provocative activities, both in Kenya and in Somalia. It is the same price the Americans and the Israelis continue to pay by way of terrorist attacks on American and Israeli targets, both at home and abroad. As long as the government remains blind to the main cause of terrorism in Kenya, another terrorist attack is just a matter of time, probably with greater casualties and much more serious damages than what was witnessed at Wesgate.