Updated: April 7, 2015 12:00:28 am
In the aftermath of last week’s attack by Somalia’s al-Shabab extremists at the Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya — which resulted in the death of 148 people, including militants — the government was advised by a Kenyan newspaper on Sunday to change its “hakuna matata posture”. The Swahili term, made famous by the movie The Lion King, means “no problem/ worries”.
Nairobi, the capital, was the site of the 1998 bombing of the US embassy by al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. In 2013, its Westgate mall was attacked by al-Shabab. Though Kenya’s military raided southern Somalia and ejected al-Shabab from its strongholds in 2011, and Kenyan jets bombed two Somalian camps used by the militants to cross into Kenya on Monday, Kenya’s response to the growing extremist threat is still looking inadequate.
After Somalia, the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabab’s largest recruitment comes from Kenya. These youths are now crossing back and expanding the network of trained jihadists in Kenya. In the Garissa attack, in which students were segregated along sectarian lines and the Christians murdered, one of the slain gunmen turned out to be a government official’s son. The government’s knee-jerk retaliatory raids among the Somali refugee population in Kenya make matters worse by often victimising the innocent. What is needed is an overhaul of intelligence-gathering to identify and preclude threats.
This attack by al-Shabab mimicked Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and could portend a closing of the distance between the Islamist arcs in northern Africa — from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the northwest to al-Shahab in the east. While the US and France are working with local governments, a more concerted and coordinated plan of action may be needed to counter the Islamist threat to Africa.
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