Terrorism doesn’t stop during a pandemic

What you need to know:

  • Unemployment rates may have surged due to the global health pandemic.

A recent report presented to US Congress focusing on the East Africa Counter-terrorism Operation and the North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operation has demonstrated a worrying side trend that has resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic.

As governments across the continent shift attention and resources towards fighting the virus, a void is emerging that allows terrorist organisations to flourish. In Northern Africa, ISIS continues to thrive, while in Western Africa, Boko Haram has yet to be entirely eradicated.

And closer to home, we face problems with the Islamic militant group Al Shabaab. Terrorizing Somali citizens as well as attacking Kenyan spaces such as Camp Simba at Manda Bay and the DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi is one of the devastating ways in which the group attempts to exert influence.

The majority of terrorist organisations as we know them today, remain adaptive and resilient even when major global changes occur. If their tail is cut off, a new one grows in its place.

And the Covid-19 pandemic is not helping the situation. However, it does not make them undefeatable. It just requires some out of the box thinking.

Due to the pandemic, more teachers are moving their classrooms online as students become accustomed to learning by video conference. This has resulted in a surge of what is referred to as

“Zoom bombing” whereby a hacker enters a Zoom session and berates participants with inappropriate content, including pornography. 

In addition to this unwelcome assault, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a surge in youth unemployment. Terrorist organisations tend to prey on young men who are impoverished and left with few career options on the table. They are vulnerable to attacks by extremist groups that know how to manipulate young minds.

 This is a problem that needs to be addressed in a collaborative manner. While President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly expressed his commitment to the KDF and all Kenyan security forces, we as citizens need to be doing our part as well to keep our communities safe.

Security is, at the end of the day, a group effort. The brave young men and women that commit themselves to the KDF are often supported by a loving community of friends and family. There are few greater things one can do for his or her country than to be patriotic, and have faith in ourselves as a nation.

There will always be naysayers, and worse yet, extremists. But that really does not characterise the general Kenyan attitude. We are a nation of laid back, happy people. We didn’t make the phrase “Hakuna Matata” famous for nothing.

And so, as part of the attempt to ensure that terrorist elements stay far away from Kenya, and as part of our ongoing effort to be Africa’s leading country, it is important that we breathe the spirit of collaboration.

This spirit has been a hallmark of the Kenyatta administration. Cliche as it sounds, it takes a village tor raise a child. No young man - or woman - should have to turn to illicit means to find a sense of belonging or make a living.

Unemployment rates may have surged due to the global health pandemic. That does not mean we have to give up hope. It simply indicates that we must work a little bit harder to help each other out.

Kenya was a fragmented society for a very long time. For most of our nation’s history, Kenyans identified first and foremost by their tribe, not their nationality. While historical circumstances might have made this state of affairs logical, we are in quite a different position nowadays. 

As the architect of a unified Kenya, the president has styled a society where it is more common to lend a hand to a fellow citizen than to be weary of him.

This is the kind of attitude needed to make sure that Kenya does not enable terrorist groups to thrive on our land, or in neighbouring countries. We need to be looking out for one another, and showing the world just how united we are.

This is the fastest path to prosperity, and the best way to emerge from the health pandemic even stronger than we were when it began. 

Mr Kwinga is a political scientist. [email protected]