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Kenya is faced with home-grown muslim extremism

Ahmed (32) joined the islamic terrorist movement al-Shabaab in neighboring Somalia two years ago. His sister Halima has not heard from him since. “Fortunately,” she says in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. “Al-Shabaab will only make contact if your family member has arrived in heaven.”

Ahmed is one of the hundreds of young people in Kenya who have become radicalized in recent years. Most come from Mombasa, or from the slums of Nairobi. “Al-Shabaab recruits them to carry out terrorist attacks in Somalia and increasingly in Kenya itself,” says social worker Phyllis Muema. Muema, who heads Kecosce, a group in Mombasa trying to dissuade youngsters from their radical ideas, calls it “an explosive situation.”

Mombasa has become a hotbed of extremism. About a quarter of the Kenyan population is Muslim. Most live at the coast and in the northeast of the country, in the region bordering Somalia. When the first major terrorist attack took place in Kenya – in 1998 by Al-Qaeda on the US Embassy in Nairobi – the perpetrators were merely foreigners. Now Kenya is faced with home-grown Muslim extremism. President Kenyatta labelled this terror recently as “a threat to the survival of the nation”.

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Westgate: “our turn eat” costs national security

During my brief tenure in government I clashed with senior colleagues who insisted that ‘eating’ from security contracts in particular was okay because the money was essential to pay for democracy that we all know is messy and expensive.

‘National security’ became the final refuge of the corrupt. My repost then and now was: when you eat from procurement deals meant for the police, military, customs, immigration at the top, then bureaucrats below watch and learn.

Like termites munching at the wooden foundations of the house of State everything soon becomes porous. Driving along a pretty rough road deep in a rural part of Pwani we once turned a corner to find ourselves staring at a magnificent palace of a residence in an area where the next best nearby house was the one that had corrugated iron on the roof.

When I asked whom the first house belonged to, I was told: “Oh, he works for Customs at the port of Mombasa”. And the house owner was a relatively junior civil servant.

That beautiful house was a bricks and mortar illustration of how systemic graft in Kenya makes a mockery of national security. Additionally, the networks used by money launderers, drug traffickers, modern day slavers and participants in grand corruption in the 21st Century are increasingly the same.


Then on September 21 terrorists linked to al Shabaab and possibly al Qaeda too attacked the Westgate Mall in the high-end suburb of Westlands in our capital.

Their stand-off with our security services lasted four days that were collectively infuriating, traumatising, saddening and utterly confusing to us Kenyans. At least 67 were killed, more than 170 injured and it remains unclear how many bodies remain under the rubble.

The truth was quickly the first victim of the attack. Today, most people I speak to treat government statements related to these key facts with scepticism. Many are in fact more inclined to believe the international press and even Twitter!

It’s embarrassing that the Guardian in the UK has emerged as the paper of record on Westgate and international broadcast platforms are now considered by many Kenyans as more reliable than the local press.

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Somalis in Kenya: How long will the Welcome last?

Finger pointing has turned to fist fights as Kenyans visibly becoming frustrated of frequent grenade and small bombs terrorists’ attacks in the Country are turning their anger on the fast growing Somali community in Nairobi.
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