Freddy will return to Kenya in a while, to continue his research. While planning this, we found out that there is a lot of unrest in the country. The day before yesterday there was a bomb attack on a market in Nairobi.
In September last year, there was the attack on the Westgate Mall that got a lot of international attention. This attack was claimed by Al-Shabab (‘the youth’), an islamist militant group from Somalia that is fighting with the government for power. African Union security forces are deployed in Somalia, and Kenyan troops are a big part of that at the moment. This is why Nairobi was the target; terrorist attacks are the last tool for Al-Shabab, that has lost control over strategic cities.
The question is how the Kenyan government can react to this terror threat. Border control is weak, and terrorists can also hide in Nairobi itself. Young Kenyan muslims can radicalise and be recruited for Al-Shabab. After Westgate, hopes were that the people and government would act with restraint, and within the rule of law. It looks like that has not been the case.
Last month, a Muslim cleric was killed, a controversial person who according to the UN recruited for Al-Shabab. Chances are that this was done by the Anti-Terror Police Unit, a unit within the Kenyan security forces that is funded by the UK and the US. The Kenyan government denies this. After this murder, the police in Nairobi detained thousands of people to check their identity: Somali’s, Muslims, anyone living in the wrong parts of the city.
Al-Amin Kimathi, a Kenyan human rights activist, thinks that this heavy-handed approach will ultimately backfire. Young men who have been detained while innocent, and hear about the Kenyan security forces executing people without due process, are very sensitive to terrorist propaganda. That closes the circle and gives Al-Shabab exactly what it wanted.