alexa We handed Al-Shabaab propaganda tool and envoy added fuel to the fire - Daily Nation

We handed Al-Shabaab propaganda tool and envoy added fuel to the fire

Monday November 21 2011

 

By MACHARIA GAITHO

The military incursion in pursuit of Al-Shabaab extremists across the borders right inside Somalia is obviously of great significance for both regional and international security.

The jihadists from across the world, who have exploited the lack of effective government to make Somalia the base of Terror Inc., are a menace way beyond the borders of that lawless country.

Therefore, eliminating them cannot be just a Kenyan duty, but the responsibility of the international community.

The regional security bloc, Igad, is showing strong support for the Kenyan initiative, as is the African Union.

From further afield, expressions of support from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and various countries and regional blocs, must go beyond tepid words and “put their money where their mouths are”.

To be meaningful, support must translate into actual resources. The campaign needs money, bullets and soldiers on the battlefront.

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However, even as we canvass international support, we must never forget that this military effort was launched primarily to secure Kenya’s security interests.

Therefore, we must not allow others with their own agenda to hijack it. I have Israel in mind.

True, the Jewish State has for decades been a firm ally where security interests have converged.

Israel has been a true friend and has always responded promptly when assistance was required.

For years, some of Kenya’s elite military and police units have benefitted from Israeli training and expertise.

The Kenyan and Israeli security partnership has, for years, served for mutual benefit, but common sense and geopolitical reality demand that these links be managed discreetly.

The fact that Al-Shabaab claims to be pursuing Islamic Jihad does not make our necessary war against it part of Israel’s own campaigns in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In that regard, Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit last week to Israel and the pledge he secured of support on the battle against Al-Shabaab was a veritable PR disaster.

It provided the murderous group with the perfect propaganda tool, and it quickly went on the offensive with a campaign designed to depict the Kenyan incursion as part of a Christian-Jewish conspiracy against Islam.

We may sit here and dismiss such claims as puerile propaganda, but there is no telling how much they might resonate within the intended audience.

One must wonder whether the PM’s trip to Israel was merely a miscalculation, or an indication of a government in which the right hand often does not know what the left is doing.

Insult was added to injury last Friday. As Foreign Minister Moses Wetang’ula was trying to explain the Kenyan operation to the Arab League, the Israeli ambassador, Gil Haskel, was adding fuel to the fire.

He came out to provide unsolicited details of an Israeli offer to send in anti-terrorism squads to help secure Kenyan towns and facilities against attack.

The obviously tactless ambassador went on to suggest that Kenya’s operation in Somalia could benefit from Israeli experiences in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

It is fortunate that Defence Minister Yusuf Haji came out immediately to deny that any such pact had been signed with Israel.

In any case, the ambassador was totally wrong in seeing similarities between the Kenyan operation in Somalia and Israeli experiences against hostile neighbours.

Kenya’s campaign is not one of occupation. It is not an invasion of Somalia and nor is it a land-grab.

The Kenyan campaign against Al-Shabaab is not in the least based on any myth of ethnic or religious superiority.

In Kenya, we strive to create a society where all can live in peace within the rich diversity of religion, race, culture and ethnicity.

All we demand is tolerance, respect for other cultures and beliefs, adherence to democracy and rule of law.

As he follows up with his own Middle East blitz to explain the operation and secure support from key Arab leaders, President Kibaki must be wishing that the Israeli envoy had a zipper on the mouth.

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