Last week terrorists attempted to break the spirit of the country when they attacked DusitD2 hotel and office complex in Nairobi. In a first for the country the security officers acted swiftly preventing more lives from being lost. More than 700 people were rescued while 21 others perished.
The President while addressing the country praised the elite forces involved in the rescue and reminded the public security begins with them. Many critics find that last part of the statement problematic because it looks as though the government is always running away from taking responsibility and looking to blame the public. In this case, the blame is that the people are not being vigilant enough.
To nobody’s surprise the security guards manning institutions, malls and supermarkets have suddenly become very thorough; begging the question, how long, until they relax? Another terror attack? Already the talk about Nyumba kumi initiative that was mooted following the Westgate terror attack in 2013 has become the new talk of town.
Perhaps what we need to ask ourselves is, why are we seemingly disinterested in our neighbors until terrorists attack? Why isn’t it a normal instinct to be friendly? But a more necessary debate is, why should the people be told security begins with them every time an attack happens when they pay taxes to the government to protect them? Kenyans are the most heavily taxed people in the region that it’s arrogant of the government to attempt to throw the blame around. But first things first.
Terrorists thrive on division to succeed: their tactics include creating rivalry between Muslims and Christians (Westgate and Garissa University attacks) and ethnic animosity (Mpeketoni and the matatu explosions in Eastleigh). In all these examples the terrorists wanted either the Christians to retaliate and thus have ready recruits from Muslims or attack on the Somali ethnic community hence achieve the same recruitment. At the center of their activities is the exploitation of weaknesses a country possesses to their advantage and this is why the government needs to come out clearly on its strategy and take full responsibility before telling the public that security begins with them.
Take the Garissa University attack for instance. We needlessly lost 147 students in part because the area has little government presence. The security apparatus took forever to respond which in turn has made so many non-locals move (which by-the-way part of the reason TSC is having challenges posting teachers in North Eastern). What the terrorist did was to exploit the inequitable distribution of resources for maximum damage.
Instead of displaying security forces with their new gear during electioneering period to scare opposition supporters into submission; send these forces to every corner of the country that all Kenyans can feel safe living and working in any part of the country. It’s already a difficult task working to pay taxes, to add the burden of security on the people.
Thankfully, our security officers were very swift in the Dusit2 Hotel attack. Can we guarantee the same response in Isiolo? What of Marsabit? So security begins with the government and then the people follow; not the other way round.
More importantly, terrorist are rendered powerless where there is cohesion. Indeed not too long ago, a Muslim bus driver refused to identify Christian passengers and lost his life but in the process foiled the terrorist’s attempt. These kind of brotherliness and unity ought to be encouraged.
That kind of unity where every part of the country stands together can be better realized if the government did its bit to fill every gap these wicked men exploit. And these gaps include balanced economic development, to prevent increased poverty that leaves the youth vulnerable to terror groups. Depoliticizing government policies to bring down political tension helps address any ethnic hatred that could be exploited.
A country where people don’t feel a President must come from their tribe is a country that is unsafe for terrorists to operate in. A country where education is not about getting jobs but actually learning to integrate with society and offer meaningful solutions to life’s challenges is a country that’s unsafe for terror activities. A country where majority are happy and have some form of satisfaction is capable of having citizens who are their brother’s keeper not because it’s a government directive but because of the values instilled over the years.