Kenya Must Have Multi-Pronged Response To Al-Shabab

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta-- how to battle Al-Shabab?  

[Black Star News Editorial]

Kenya's air force has reportedly bombed two camps inside Somalia days after the horrific massacre of more than 140 students at a school in Garissa by Al-Shabab.

The Somali group also was behind the bloody 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that claimed 67 lives. Last November it was also behind the execution of 28 innocent people removed from a bus and killed for their Christian faith.

Clearly the Shabab want to increase religious tensions in the country.

Part of the Kenyan bombing raid, no doubt is due to public pressure over the authorities' failure to protect the Garissa school, which is in the region of the country bordering Somalia.

Given the number of Al-Shabab attacks in Kenya, about 100 since Kenya sent its army into Somalia in 2011, the school shouldn't have been operating in that remote region in the first place. Certainly, Christian students would be wary of attending schools in the region from now on. The authorities should have also learned a lesson from the Nigerian case; after Boko Haram kidnapped almost 250 school girls in an isolated school last year.

When Kenya sent thousands of troops into Somalia it was responding to the increased attacks by Al-Shabab, which had included several kidnappings in the country, which seriously threatened Kenya's tourism industry, a major economic bread-winner.

At the same time Kenya had the green-light to deploy in Somalia from the United States. Neighboring Uganda has also deployed thousands of troops as a proxy army for the United States, which supports the Somali government in Mogadishu the capital. The Al-Shabab has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Uganda.

The U.S. fears an Al-Shabab controlled Somalia would provide a haven for Al-Qaeda.

The Al-Shabab group has been locked in battle with the Mogadishu-based government for years. The U.S. has also backed the Mogadishu-based government with drone-strikes against Al-Shabab's leadership.

Kenya faces a big challenge. It has a large ethnic-Somali population. It shares a border with Somalia. There is a sizable ethnic-Somali population in Nairobi, the capital as well.

Given the horrific nature of the mass murder of students, many Kenyans likely want to see Somali heads rolling.

Mass arrests of ethnic-Somalis is dangerous, unjust, and unlawful; many innocent people would be affected.  Many members of the public may be inclined to have them confined anyway. This would also play into Al-Shabab's hands as the group will likely use it their propaganda for more recruitment into its ranks.

Kenya can't rely exclusively on a military approach.  In Afghanistan, even the United States, with its powerful military, its vast intelligence services capabilities, and it's massive financial resources, at same point realized that it had to promote some form of dialogue with the Taliban.

Given the still too recent memories of Al-Shabab's mass murder of students many Kenyans likely want the government to even send more troops into Somalia.

Kenya must remember Ethiopia's experience, when it sent tens of thousands of soldiers from its mighty army into Somalia and occupied large parts of the country for years. After the invasion took its toll Ethiopia eventually pulled out.

In the long run Kenya must adopt a multi-pronged approach that includes diplomacy.



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