The Star (Nairobi)

26 April 2014

Kenya: Are Security Officers Conducting Swoops or Terrorism in Eastleigh

In the last few weeks, the national discussion has been about Eastleigh police swoops or Eastleigh police terrorism, according to some people. It is very clear the police force or security machinery, while doing the necessary security operation are obviously involved in looting, raping, discrimination and abuse of human rights.

But is this not predictable collateral damage of war? Are we not fighting terrorism as a country? What caused the police swoops or police terrorism in the first place?

As in any other human endeavor, there is cause and effect we need to understand in order to do objective analysis. To understand cause and effect, let us first ask what terrorism is and what causes it?

There is no accepted meaning of the word terrorism. But generally, terrorism refers to those violent acts that are intended to create panic, fright, terror or fear. In Eastern Africa, it is perpetrated mainly by al Shabaab, a religious, political and ideological outfit operating in Somalia.

They deliberately and cowardly target non-combatants civilians who are soft-targets. Terrorists use tactics used by criminal organizations for protection rackets.

They usually enforce a code of silence not labeled terrorism, though these same actions may be labeled terrorism when done by a politically motivated group.

The usage of the term has also been criticized for its frequent undue equating with Islam or jihad, while ignoring non-Islamic organizations or individuals causing terrorism.

The word terrorism is politically loaded and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. There are many definitions of the word terrorism.

In some cases, the same group may be described as "freedom fighters" by its supporters and considered to be terrorists by its opponents. The concept of terrorism may be controversial as it is often used by authorities and individuals with access to state power to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially legitimize the state's own use of security force against opponents such as terror unleashed by the police in Eastleigh. At the same time, the reverse may also take place when security forces perpetrate state terrorism.

Terrorism has been practiced by a broad array of political organizations to further their objectives. It has been practiced by right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments.

And yet an abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against non-combatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group or individual. The symbolism of terrorism can exploit human fear to help achieve these goals.

There is a question about who actually 'chooses' terrorism, and it may be unfair to think of young recruits, such as some suicide bombers of today, who are seduced by cult-like Al Shabab methods of indoctrination as completely culpable for their choices.

If you listen carefully to the explanations that are usually given as answers to the question, what is terrorism? you will find that they actually answer the question, what are the conditions in which terrorism is most likely to take place?

Sometimes these conditions have to do with the people who become terrorists and some conditions have to do with the circumstances they live in such as poverty, hopelessness, discrimination, police brutality, human rights abuse and so on as was wildly reported in Eastleigh.

Terrorism is the systematic use of violence as a means of coercion often driven by political, religious or ideological objectives. The usage of the term has a controversial history, with individuals such as Nelson Mandela at one point also branded a terrorist. During Mau Mau, the freedom fighters were of course considered terrorists by the colonial terror machine.

Although many people today believe that that religious fanaticism causes terrorism, it isn't true holistically. It may be true that religious fanaticism creates conditions that are favourable for terrorism.

But we know that religious zealotry does not cause terrorism because there are many religious fanatics who do not choose terrorism or any form of violence or criminal activities.

So there must also be other conditions that in combination provoke some people to see terrorism as an effective way of creating change in their slanted, twisted, distorted or skewed world view.

In addition to poverty, social and political injustice causes terrorism. That is why people choose terrorism when they are trying to right what they perceive to be a social, political or historical injustice--when they have been robbed of their land like in the Coast province or denied equal opportunities in the distribution of resources.

The poor and oppressed people believe that violence or its threat will be effective, and usher in change they desire by any means including terrorism. In other words, violent means justify the ends.

Many terrorists in history said sincerely that they chose violence after long deliberation, because they felt they had no choice. That is why these explanations of the causes of terrorism may be difficult to understand as it sounds too theoretical. However, if you analyze any group that is widely understood as a terrorist group, you will find these two elements are basic to their story.

That is why Kenya needs to consolidate and enhance counter terrorism activities and embark on a new phase in its counter-terrorism efforts. A strategy is needed that forms a basis for a concrete plan of action to first address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; second, to prevent and combat terrorism; third, to take measures to build state capacity to fight terrorism; fourth, to strengthen the role of the security force in combating terrorism; fifth, to ensure the respect of human rights, while countering terrorism and not target any particular tribe, community or religion.

The country needs to establish counter-terrorism strategy to provide intelligence, research, analysis, and warning on international, regional, and domestic terrorism.

The security forces must be required to commit to high morals and respect for religious principles, including the rules of the Islamic Sharia and the heritage of the Muslim community in Kenya, which condemns violence and terrorism and stresses the defense of human rights and cooperation between communities for the sake of peace.

There must be commitment to the rules of the covenant of the Igad states, the AU, and related international agreements. These are all the wellspring of African society in its pursuit of peace, security and respect for all including infants, women and the elderly.

There must be differentiation between terrorist crimes and the police terrorism against citizens or country residence and establish safe guides against police aggression or brutality while fighting runaway crime.

We must recognize the need for intensification of the Somalis and Muslims cooperation and coordination in the judicial security fields, and the creation of a common ground for this coordination by accepted bases to the judicial means of operations.

Lastly, there is need for coordination between the country laws and steps taken by security forces in order to fulfill the common national aims of eradicating terrorism. We can't afford to alienate any particular community!

Let us not forget what caused the police operation in Eastleigh in the first place. In other words, there is cause and effect relationship and I think we should see it as dialectics of human development.

In addition, it is now clear there is urgent need to reform the police force to free them from their foundation as a colonial security machinery setup to oppress Africans.

Kenya police or security machinery was formed by the colonialists to suppress, curb, stifle, suffocate, asphyxiate, choke, contain, control, and repress the natives.

The looting, raping, and the abuse of human rights as reported in Eastleigh happened before and could happen again in any other part of the country or any community in Kenya irrespective of tribe or religion.

Why do we call the disdained or derided GSU 'fanya fujo uone'? That is the foundation we need to erase, remove, eliminate, delete and wipe to reform the police force and install the concept of community policing.

Prof Osman Warfa is researcher based in USA and author of the book, "Somali Diaspora Organization Development: Implications for HRD".

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