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Al-Shabaab qualifies for UN sanctions so it can be crushed

Tuesday January 22 2019

Militants of al-Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Militants of al-Shabaab train on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The response by Kenyan security agencies to the 14 Riverside Drive terrorist attack of last week denied Al-Shabaab the propaganda victory it sought.

The terrorists may have succeeded in killing 20-plus innocent civilians, but the effect of terrorising Kenyans into withdrawing their support for counter-terrorism and Amisom — the United Nations-backed African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia — failed.

They were also unable to demonstrate that the State was inept and unable to protect Kenyans.

The terrorists will now go back to the drawing board to seek other ways of launching further attacks that bypass the capabilities that frustrated them at the Dusit complex. Kenya and the world, therefore, also need to prepare for the next attempt at ‘glory’ for the Somalia-based outfit.

A large part of that preparation is ensuring that the mission against Al-Shabaab, both here at home, in Somalia and globally is properly aligned, equipped and co-ordinated.

From the address by President Kenyatta in the aftermath of this latest terror attack in the country, we can reasonably assume that Kenyan security services will accelerate their tempo against Al-Shabaab.

There is evidence of this in the quick arrests of suspected facilitators of the attack and Kenyan forces in Amisom must also be delivering a swift and hard justice across the border in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

The regional and global effort must be similarly determined and clear in its intentions.


Even before we talk of preventing terrorism and trying to draw parts of Al-Shabaab to defect, the world has to ensure that the group is under extreme military- and intelligence-led pressure.

It must face determined and sustained military assault while its financiers and facilitators worldwide are jailed, sanctioned and put under unrelenting measures.

The key to this lies in New York, at the United Nations Security Council, where Al-Shabaab should be formally sanctioned as a formal affiliate of al-Qaeda.

That way, it will face the full force of the most ferocious and widespread sanctions regime globally; one that promises personal and institutional ruin for any financier or facilitator of the terrorist group.

At the moment, the UN considers Al-Shabaab only as a “threat to peace and security” under a Somalia sanctions regime (Resolution 751), whose focus is an arms embargo and a ban on charcoal sales.

This is clearly inadequate to deal with an Al-Shabaab that formally declares itself loyal to al-Qaeda and launches or inspires global and regional terrorist attacks.

Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed, keeps referring to Al-Shabaab as an affiliate and giving instructions to it.

The group makes no bones about its membership of global Jihad. For instance, in its justification for the Riverside Drive attack, it claimed to be responding to President Donald Trump’s moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That was a clear attempt by the group at competing with ISIS in Somalia for the esteem by global Jihadists; it is what helps it recruit Kenyans, Tanzanians, Britons and others.

Not listing Al-Shabaab in the ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaida Sanctions Regime is simply confusing. After all, its attack at Riverside Drive, similar to prior ones, met the UN’s standard for listing by “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of al-Qaida, ISIL or affiliates”.


The result is that there are UN and international humanitarian and other non-governmental organisations that are not paying enough attention to the risk of being declared financiers of terrorism when they pay ‘taxes’ to the group so that they can deliver aid.

The humanitarian needs of the poor Somali people should not be prioritised over the security and lives of Kenyans — especially not when the same group is killing so many innocent Somalis.

It also means that Amisom is not properly equipped and mandated to fight terrorism aggressively.

The argument that Al-Shabaab may be negotiated with by the Mogadishu government will only become real when the group is militarily suppressed and seeks peace; otherwise, it will just wait out Amisom and then take over Somalia with the result of even greater carnage.

The Security Council should do the right thing and instantly list Al-Shabaab as an al-Qaeda affiliate to enable the region and the world to fight it properly.

Dr Bagaka is a governance and public policy consultant. [email protected]