Terrorism promotes religious amity and national security!By CHARLES ONYAONGO-OBBO | Monday, July 9 2012 at 10:29
On Sunday, July 1, terrorists carried out their deadliest attack in Kenya since the US embassy bombing of August 1998. Hooded gunmen attacked two churches in the northeast town of Garissa, shooting worshippers and blowing them up with grenades. In all, 17 people were killed, and dozens wounded.
Two rather unusual things followed. First, within hours, the Kenya government announced a wide-ranging reshuffle of police chiefs. The unusual thing about this was the speed with which this was done.
Now, Garissa is the heartland of the Kenyan Somali population, and predominantly Muslim. The attacks on the churches seem to have been intended to spark a Muslim-Christian conflict.
In Garissa, though, the Muslim leaders were energised and announced that the community was going to mobilise Muslim youth to protect the churches. Those who still remember Kenya in 2010 in the lead-up to the referendum on the new Constitution, when the debate between Christian and Muslim hardliners reached a shameful low over the issue of kadhi’s courts, must have been impressed by this show of inter-faith solidarity.
Because most African governments’ view of national security is to protect the president, his cronies, and keep them in power by suppressing the opposition, intelligence organisations tend to be little more than state-funded thuggish wings of ruling parties or First Families.
However, across the continent, terrorism is forcing governments to professionalise sections of the security services, and to improve state efficiency.
Al Shabaab struck in the Uganda capital Kampala in July 2010 on the night of the World Cup final. Over 70 people were killed, and hundreds injured.
Because Uganda had been expecting such an attack since sending troops to Somalia three years earlier, its intelligence on the July bombing was extremely good.
It had every detail of the terrorists’ plans. There was only one problem: Several pieces of the intelligence were held by different security organisations, and their leaders did not come together to share and agree joint action, because of inter-agency political rivalry.
In that sense, terrorism is good. It has frightened regional governments into taking a broader view of the national interest, and hence to take baby steps in the professionalisation of the intelligence services.
Also because the “enemy” is increasingly defined as external, sections of the security services have had to be diverted from spying on the domestic opposition and human-rights activists.
Without terrorism, few African countries would have computers and cameras at immigration. The money that goes into buying them would have been eaten by big people in the Security Ministry.
If Al Shabaab wants to collapse the “infidel” regimes in East Africa, it should do nothing. By launching terrorist attacks, it forces them to build and thus strengthen their security and state capabilities. And in places like Garissa, it leads to the rise of the moderate and pragmatic Muslim leaders — hardly what it wants.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Group’s executive editor for Africa & Digital Media. E-mail: email@example.com. Twitter: @cobbo3
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