We still have a lot to learn from terror attacks

Monday January 28 2019

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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There is no doubt that Kenya has learned a lot from previous experiences with terrorist attacks.

During the attack on DusitD2 Hotel, specialised terrorism response units and the General Service Unit were better coordinated than previously seen. Their response was also timely and decision making and command were coordinated almost to clinical precision. As a result, more lives were saved than lost, in comparison to previous attacks such as on the West Gate mall and Garissa University. But in the wider scheme of life, 21 lives is one too many.

As always, there are Kenyans who know how to give admirable service to this nation. Some as private licenced firearm holders, who were pictured selflessly escorting fellow citizens to safety, working in tandem with security personnel. It was also heart-warming to see ordinary Kenyans step up to support security forces by providing food and refreshments. This spirit of ''what I can do now to help'' is what patriotism entails, especially in times of emergencies.

But Kenya still has a lot to learn. One of the biggest adjustment lessons will be the social profiling of a terrorist. Whereas many Kamau’s can get profiled if we are discussing Mungiki and many a Kwamboka if we are discussing Chinkororo, the same people will barely attract a glance when a discussion on terrorism is ongoing. Terrorist are ahead of the nation, and even the international community on this aspect, and are now choosing their instruments of terror outside established profiles.

It is difficult to tell if it was in sticking to the script of a terrorist or with the realisation that such a profile is flawed that Bryson Mwamburi was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. Though he was later released, instances of victims of terrorism falling through the cracks to become suspects of the state must be minimised.

GREED

What is clear is that certain Kenyan attributes and tendencies are being exploited to abet the presence of terrorist activity in the country. Greed seems to have set the standard on the style, mode and timelines for acquisition of wealth. Young Kenyans are slowly falling into the trap of ''money is everything''. Terrorism seems to have inched away from religious philosophy and ideology to just the need for money. A nation cannot fall any lower on the moral scale.

Corruption will sink Kenya down the dark hole where terrorists operate. First the principal of ''see something, say something'' is greatly challenged in Kenya, given that in the interaction of Kenyans with traffic and administration police, the cops' sole aim seems to be to extort a bribe, sometimes even using trumped-up charges.

Corruption and or lack of institutional accountability has also enabled technological innovations such as M-Pesa to be used to fund terrorist activities. Many banks are not ashamed to retain a dark room, whose door is ostensibly labelled ''bulk withdrawals''.
Yet an ordinary Kenyan will have to fill numerous paperwork to withdraw 1 million shillings which is either a loan from that same bank or a direct transfer from a SACCO. It therefore begs a look in the direction of corruption that there are Kenyans who can withdraw five million shillings without raising any eye brow.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

Youth unemployment will exacerbate the falling of more young Kenyans into the terrorism trap. The ministry of education estimates that one million graduates from universities and tertiary institutions enter the employment market in Kenya each year. What is the nation’s plan for these young people? Without gainful employment, the youth are more likely to fall into the trap of social ills, especially those that are financially lucrative, including terrorism. It does not seem to matter to them that the price they have to pay for such interaction is often death.

The government will also have to re-evaluate its interaction with the corporate sector, such as banks, mobile telephone operators and insurance companies. Do terrorist networks have better intelligence than governments? How is it that they can tell which areas M-Pesa transaction will go unnoticed or which insurance companies will not carry out due diligence before issuing insurance to a client?

PREPAREDNESS

Kenyans also need to integrate safety and security guidelines in their work places and personal lives. Whereas the motion of car inspecting is common place, we still have citizens running towards and not away from the sounds of explosions and gun shots. Survivor’s interviews still have people saying ''I did not think it was a terrorist attack, I thought it was a gas cylinder or tire burst or some other mundane occurrence.''

When will we react appropriately in terrorist situation? Taking personal care will not only mean making the work of response units easier, it will also save lives.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa