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Five Years After Westgate, Al-Shabaab Is Weakened But Not Yet Defeated

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Five Years After Westgate, Al-Shabaab Is Weakened But Not Yet Defeated

It’s been five years since four attackers made their way into Westgate, a popular shopping mall in the rich Westlands area of Nairobi, and unleashed a coordinated attack that left 71 people dead.

Some of those deaths resulted from friendly fire as the small group of terrorists took advantage of Kenyan security agencies’ confused response. After the attack, videos emerged of members of some security agencies looting shops in Westgate during the siege.

The attack, for which Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, struck a brutal blow against Kenya’s important tourist industry.

Five years on, the threat is somewhat reduced.

Al-Shabaab remains undefeated. But there are several indications that Kenya, as well as several of its neighbours, such as Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, have made important gains against the terror group and its local sympathisers.

My field studies indicate that the Kenyan police have been successful in curtailing communication and cross-border travel by local sympathisers and Somali militants. This is significant for two reasons. First, attacks like Westgate were almost certainly coordinated by militants who’d trained in Somalia and returned to Kenya. And second,
hundreds of Kenyans have joined the group inside Somalia.

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Kenya’s security forces must nevertheless remain vigilant. This is especially true because Al-Shabaab remains powerful and stable within Somalia. There’s always a risk that the group will once again turn its sights on Kenya if policing and security slacken.

Al-Shabaab, a border problem

After Westgate, Kenya was rocked by two more large attacks in the vulnerable border areas near Somalia. On 2 December 2014, gunmen crept into a labourers’ camp in Mandera and killed 36 people. On 2 April 2015, militants launched a large-scale attack on Garissa University College. The attack left 150 dead, the highest number of causalities ever inside Kenya.

Since then, the border areas have become far safer, although attacks still occur. There are several reasons for this. Kenya increased spending on security. It also increased border controls, and implemented a devolution process delegating power to the region and local levels.

There’s also been an improvement in relations between Kenyan police and communities. Civil society groups were also drawn into implementing Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism in 2016, leading to a variety of NGOs getting involved.

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Finally, Kenya’s police have become better at targeted operations. Gone are the random arrests scores of Kenyan Somalis that led to grievances and animosities that Al-Shabaab could take advantage off.

That’s not to say Kenya is entirely out of the woods. Concerns persist.

Al-Shabaab, still a threat

One area of concern is that there’s still potential for Al-Shabaab to recruit fighters inside Kenya. The root causes for the recruitment, alientation and animosity towards the state is still there.

While these Kenyan sympathisers in general are disorganised, they nevertheless remain a cadre that can be tapped by radicals if circumstances change in Kenya, and if law enforcement agencies drop their guard.

Inside Somalia, Al-Shabaab has not been weakened since the Westgate attack. There have been some changes, such as to its leadership, and some internal discord has been reported, but by and large the group remains on firm footing.

This is evidenced by increasing insecurity in Somalia. Most recently, a car belonging to Somali intellectual and free speech defender Professor Yahya Hagi Ibrahim was bombed. His brother was killed. It was the latest in a series of attacks targeting politicians and intellectuals.

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In the Somali countryside, in supposedly “liberated areas”, Al-Shabaab still wields considerable influence. For instance, the group demands “taxes” from villagers and protection money from businesses operating in those areas, helping to fund the group’s activities.

All of this is worrying for Kenya. Its own local improvements unfortunately won’t directly influence Al-Shabaab’s standing inside Somalia.

Maintaining the progress

Kenya’s leaders need to maintain unity and enhance both the payment of security forces and the trust between community and the police.

Progress has been made, but it needs to be continuously advanced, strengthened and consolidated.The Conversation

Stig Jarle Hansen, Associate Professor of International Relations, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

African News

NYSC Introduces Biometric Clearance System To Curb Corruption – DG

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NYSC DG Sulaiman Kazaure

Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Major Gen Suleiman Kazaure, has disclosed that the corps has introduced a biometric clearance system to eliminate corruption and compromise by officials and corps members.

The DG stated this on Monday during a leadership and anti-corruption sensitisation workshop in Abuja, designed to raise a crop of officials that would imbibe good leadership qualities and enthrone a culture of transparency and accountability.

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He also revealed that the scheme had ensured strict compliance with government policies on the treasury single account, integrated personnel and payroll system, and government integrated financial management information system.

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The D.G says the introduction of biometric clearance system for corps members has virtually eliminated all chances of compromise by officials, as well as absenteeism and abscondence by corps members.

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The biometrics system now ensures only deserving corps members are paid the monthly and other statutory allowances.

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African News

Zimbabwe: Party Accused Of Partisan Distribution Of Aid To Victims Of Cyclone

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Zimbabwe: Party Accused Of Partisan Distribution Of Aid To Victims Of Cyclone

Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF lawmaker for Chimanimani East, Nokuthula Matsikenyere, has been sucked into the eye of a storm over the partisan distribution of aid to victims of cyclone idai.

Chimanimani and Chipinge in the south east of Manicaland were the worst affected areas by the storm that left a trail of destruction and more than a hundred forty persons dead.

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Affected villagers have accused ruling ZANU-PF officials, including Matsikenyere, of politicizing the disaster relief donated by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).  They said the aid was given to only ZANU-PF supporters.

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In a heated meeting on Saturday in a village where the relief aid was distributed, Matsikenyere was quoted as openly saying to the disgruntled villagers they deserved to be deprived of the disaster relief because they did not vote for her during last year’s elections.

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The lawmaker later confirmed to a news crew that she directed the aid distribution, but that she was not involved in compiling names of recipients.  She did not admit to saying what the villagers attributed to her.

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African News

Study Shows Millions In Africa Live In Fear Of Losing Their Homes

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Study Shows Millions In Africa Live In Fear Of Losing Their Homes

A new study Prindex shows tens of millions of urban dwellers in Sub-Saharan Africa live in fear of losing their homes against their will.

The study shows that in eighteen countries surveyed, nearly thirty-two million adults in urban areas are “insecure in their rights to their home and land.”

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The study says this means that more than sixty million adults living in urban areas are tenure insecure.  If the trend continues, the study says insecurity could afflict more than two hundred million by 2050.

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Measuring security of tenure is one of the indicators used to assess progress in attaining the first of the sustainable development goals, which is the eradication of poverty.

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Prindex is an initiative launched by two think tanks—the global land alliance, and the London-based overseas development institute.

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