If we don’t minimise terror acts, our risk factor will shoot through the roof

Tuesday May 29 2012



We must urgently stop the spate of bombings and grenade attacks before these merchants of terror destroy our tourism sector.

The evidence may be anecdotal, but frequent reports about terrorist attacks are already taking a toll on tourism and travel particularly in Coast Province.

The recent decision by Virgin Atlantic to discontinue flights into Kenya has been largely attributed to perceptions about an increase in terrorist activity.

As the terrorists struck in Nairobi, we were hosting top executives from the American conglomerate, General Electric, who had come to prospect for new partnerships in the energy, avionics, and railway sectors.

General Electric has announced that it will be investing billions of shillings in public-private deals in the infrastructure sector.

With the bomb attack, the country’s political risk profile is bound to climb a notch higher, and it is this profile that determines ratings as well as the price at which international financial markets are willing to lend you money.

Just the other day, the government borrowed $600 million from a syndicate of international banks to fund its budget.

Although the rate at which we borrowed was fairly competitive, we could have borrowed even cheaper money had we gone for a Euro Bond.

But with the country approaching an election year, its political risk profile was such that no international investor was going to put money into a bond Kenya has issued.

An economy like ours, which is deeply integrated with the international financial system, must worry about perceptions by foreign investors.

Granted, one can argue that we don’t have to borrow from abroad and that we don’t need the rest of the world.

But take a closer look at how the $600 million loan has affected the macro economy: interest rates on the Treasury bill have plummeted to below 10 per cent in a matter of months, and commercial banks are now under pressure to bring lending rates down.

But just how prepared is our police to deal with terrorism? Just the other day, they struck a church in Nairobi. In another incident, some lunatic detonated a grenade in the crowded “Machakos” bus terminus killing several people.

Clearly, these attacks are about spreading fear and despondency. This will mean the police introducing major changes in the way crime is prevented, especially in Nairobi.

Nairobi is urbanising in complex patterns. Slums and other informal settlements are growing faster than the formal ones. 

The last formal and regulated market was built in the 1980s. Instead of formal markets, the hawking business is becoming omnipresent.

Where you had big branded shops in the Central Business District mostly owned by dukawallas, property owners today prefer to partition large shops into crowded 10x10 stalls, popularly known as exhibitions, which they rent to individuals.

Literally, every part of the city is crowded and therefore a soft target for the merchants of terror. We must use ever more resources in studying and investigating their ways.
On Monday, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere betrayed some ignorance when he speculated that the blast may have been caused by an electric fault.

His outburst illustrated the fact that the police are not investing enough in gathering intelligence on terrorism. I claim no authority on intelligence and security, but I need the police to answer some simple questions.

What type of explosive was used? Are the ingredients used readily available in shops? How expensive is it to assemble the type of device used?

Was the Monday incident an act of plain nihilism or are we dealing with Al Shabaab-indoctrinated fanatics directed by evil men from overseas?

Is ours a threat from afar or a home-grown thing? If it is home-grown, who and what is catalysing it? Who is giving the terrorists technical advice, or paying for such acts?

The answers to these questions are what should inform debate on new counter-terrorism legislation.