East Africa: Militarization of Solutions

Alleged suspects of the extremist group Al-Shabaab are guarded by soldiers of the Somali National Army in Kismayo, Somalia in October 2012.

The militarization of policing and counterterrorism operations in East and West Africa has chiefly multiplied the numbers of people seeking vengeance against the state, contend regional experts Nanjala Nyabola and Obi Anyadike in the third episode of Peacebuilders, a Carnegie Corporation podcast series. The militarization of regional security policy, partly in response to foreign funding agendas, is abetting insecurity and encouraging corruption from Somalia to Nigeria.

From an East African point of view, the shift in Western funding priorities has been marked. "Now it's much more a security-driven agenda, which is about migration and about Al Qaeda or extremism," says Anyadike, an Open Society Fellow and longtime editor and reporter at IRIN News. Countries that have terrorism or migration issues can find European and North American donors to help solve them. "The rest of the continent," Anyadike continues, having "no leverage over the West, can, to a certain extent, go hang. The whole idea of creating democracy and all those good things, and good governance, that seems to have been a bygone age now."

"Permitting the Kenyan military to provide domestic security has made things worse in much of the country," says Nyabola, a researcher and public intellectual in Kenya. "And especially in the frontier counties, the ones that are by the border: giving the military the ability to round up young people arbitrarily, disappear them."

Nyabola discusses how some Kenyans tend to ignore the massacres and other violence perpetrated by state actors - while other Kenyans cannot forget these iniquities and form their opinion of the state accordingly: "There's a lot of quiet injustice that … should be the number one priority of any efforts that we're making to understand the political space in this country. Those quiet injustices, those frustrating injustices are what people call back to in moments later on of political tension. They say, ‘Well, you people did X, Y, Z.’"

"Vengeance," Anyadike says, "is a very powerful motivating force among young radical men and women."

Both Anyadike and Nyabola take a jaded view of well-financed counterterrorism initiatives, whether it comes to the use of drones or countering violent extremism (CVE) projects: "It has become a little bit of a gravy train," says Anyadike. "Every project gets re-hatted as CVE. We have no evidence that CVE works. We tend to see everything in terms of just reheating old development policies."

Nyabola also points to the corruption that seems to accompany large-scale, ongoing military missions like AMISOM in Somalia and its efforts to combat the Al Shabaab insurgency: "It's the Kenyan senior military officials in bed with Al Shabaab, with charcoal smuggling and sugar smuggling."

"You need to have security forces that are professional and able to fulfill their functions," Anyadike says. "More importantly, you need to have a police service that is able to perform its basic functions. Which we don't have. Our police forces are underfunded, undermanned, understaffed. They don't have even the most basic of forensic skills. This is a policing issue before it's a military issue....You should be able to identify people early and not take them to a police station and torture them. Because as we've seen time and time again, that's just creating yet more radicalism."

* Peacebuilders features nine episodes from East Africa. The six remaining episodes, tackling everything from the future of the African Union to immigration to media and elections in Kenya, will be published weekly on Tuesday mornings. The interviewers are Aaron Stanley, a program assistant with Carnegie Corporation of New York’s International Peace & Security program, and Scott Malcomson, an author, journalist, and former government official and NGO executive. Malcomson was a Carnegie Corporation media fellow from 2015 to 2018 and is currently a fellow in international security at the New America Foundation and director of special projects at Strategic Insight Group. #Peacebuilders.

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