Monday, January 29, 2018

The Al-Shabaab angle component in the North-Eastern Kenya

Introduction
Religious fundamentalism is a hot topic to handle today especially in our volatile unpredictable   environment that is being rocked by terrorism, suicide bombers and general global security upgrades both nationally and internationally. In this paper we want to venture into what exactly is religious fundamentalism and its root causes, to understand a pastoral approach in a society cocktailed by major religions (Christians, Muslim and Judaism,) who profess in the same God, but their way of relation is a bit intense, departing in different directions with no intention of uniting but a close co-existence amidst soft and hard intolerance attitudes.

       Religious fundamentalism has its context and environment of operation. In this research of North-Eastern Kenya with a group called Al-Shabaab. An infiltrated terrorist group with lethal impact that come with untold sufferings to the innocent Kenyans on their soil. 

Religious fundamentalism is usually religious movement or point of view characterized by the return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism. “Fundamentalism is the resistance, a form of modern secularization…volatile movement with an intention of returning to the passed, a belief not compatible with modernity”[1]

Religious fundamentalism is caused with many factors: economic, cultural, threat to modernity, technocratic etc.  But the interesting thing is its psychological in nature which is never highlighted in various works of fundamentalism. Marty says, “fundamentalism have little or nothing in common with each other, and he believes psychological factors are important in explaining fundamentalism.”[2]
The question is why do people become religious fundamentalists? The term fundamentalist

 Is not used by Muslims, it doesn’t exist in Islamic fundamentalism[3]. I will refer to it as Muslim Islamic. The Kenyan environment is coloured with economic, political and government abandonment of the Northern region that has been a great recruiting environment by young men into the Al-Shabaab movement that end up into hard religious fundamentalism.

1.1      What is Terrorism?

Terrorism is no longer something that used to be done or carried out by few confused, crazy chaps out to disrupt the daily routine of life. Terrorism is global reality that we have to all confront and find out ways of how to negotiate and talk over to stop the looming disasters which are daily affecting all lives. Terrorism seems to be making everyone and more so governments to rethink over means and ways to averting massive deaths and destructions. J. Powell states

 “Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, even if we treat it as such. Most histories of terrorism try to take the story back to the “Sicarii” in the first-century Judea, who used their small daggers or sicae to attack romans, and ‘the Assassins’ in the medieval Persia who murdered religious rivals in the certain knowledge they themselves would be killed. While it is true that political and religious violence is as old as man, it is stretching the meaning of the expression to suggest it goes back that far. The tern ‘terror’ in this context was first coined in the French Revolution, where it was used to describe the government’s campaign to protect the revolution and had a thorough positive connotation for those using it… The first use of the term terrorist was used to describe the men who attacked Napoleon’s coach on Christmas Eve 1800 in the ‘Infernal Machine’ plot (named after an earlier bomb attack in Flanders during the sixteenth-century revolt against the Spanish) …their objective was to spread fear and panic in order to sap the morale of the ‘imperial enemy’”[4]

These groups are formed with a hidden agenda which only those recruiting them know what the end results will be. The radical Muslim sheikhs in their radical religious classes, madras keep teaching that a true Muslim is prepared to die for his religion, which cannot be done through dialogue but through arms. It’s never proclaimed publicly but secretly passed to those who attend the classes. In 2000 Nelson Mandela said on Larry King Live,

 ‘I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies…Yasser Arafat said ‘The difference between a revolutionary and terrorist lies in the reason for which fights. For whoever stands by the just cause and fights for freedom and liberation of his land from the invaders, the settlers and the colonialists, cannot possibly be called terrorists’’[5]

The UN requires states to ‘take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts ’but there is no international consensus on what constitutes terrorism. Once all these factors, that keep unfolding mixed with land and political undertones, it unfolds like a hydra that a small political ideology flames an agenda for military missions. 

The terrorists or fundamentalist group strive where a government interest and security are weak, more so targeting police stations, destroying communication installations, so as to make movements difficult, confusing security officials. It always turns out in hails of bullets. Once a terrorist group like Al-Shabaab[6] leader is arrested or killed, it psyches the group to now go full throttle to inflict pain, destruction to innocent people, civilians even their Muslim brothers.

1.2      The scenario and operations of Al-Shabaab

This is the scenario Al-Shabaab operates in and are usually good at. They believe they have a right to operate and do what they want on their land and in this case of our research Somalia. Anybody who invades and destabilised their operations in Somalia is seen as an enemy and foreign who needs to be fought forth with all means possible. 

This lays ground for a religious war and if the invader is not a Muslim it takes a direct confrontation head on. This is what this research wants to delve into, the causes of Al-Shabaab in North-eastern Kenya that has turned out to be a nightmare to the Kenyan state and regional economic blocs.

The underlying factors, or reasons for the rule and rise of Al-Shabaab seems to be more of the Kenya government’s lack of interest to what is happening in the North-eastern regions, hence creating a great rift of assessment of quality of lives of the people, children and youths. Such attitudes produce a complex reality which after many years of neglect turns into a catalyst of war and destruction.

North-eastern Kenya is a place considered a hardship prone place, uninhabitable, abandoned place, open fields of deserts, a rich ground of recruitment. It serves a playground of extremists who take over and with no laws, basic rules for survival, it turns out into death trap zone, another replicated Somalia stateless country in the horn of Africa.

Al-Shabaab is a terrorist group that operates without border, it can be hired, recruited very easily into another outskirt and yet still functions with same objective. They become hitmen on hire by any other group who have a serious mission of destruction or interested target spots, it becomes a hired machinery. We are factoring into one specific one in the context of Kenya who operate between the North-eastern frontiers of Kenyan boundaries with Somalia. The drama that is being played in the North-Kenya has left many dead, maimed and more so the terrible massacre 147 of the Garissa University students in a cold blood that shock the Kenyan state to the roots of its main nerve.

These all because of paying back for what Kenya is doing in Somalia, killing their brothers. Their claimed objectives are that Kenya withdraw from Somalia or lest the will be subjected to massive loss of property and unfathomable deaths. Such chills send fear to many Kenyans and more so to foreigners who crowd Kenya is festival seasons that once they strike, the whole tourism industry goes to her knees. They hit so hard that they become legitimised and recognised force to reckon with.

Al-Shabaab is group that has great influence in politics of the day and financiers who organise them. Their ideals look different and undefined. Kill its leader and the internal mechanisms is automatically activated with proper policy of command exact execution.

1.3      The Kenya Defence Force Military Strategy

The Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) justification of entering Somalia was a catalyst to psyche the Al-Shabaab to become more sophisticated and lethal. Kenya was chattering into murky desert dunes of Somalia hence, creating a complete overrunning of the Al-Shabaab camps of recruitments and base of disaster against neighbouring countries that unrolled forth undesirable destructions, deaths, blood berths.

Al-Shabaab felt a foreigner has invaded their land and killed Somalis in large numbers, bombing, raping and polluting their patria. This war against Al-Shabaab is entering its eighth year with untold consequences. The big questions many people are asking themselves is who funds Al-Shabaab? It looks to many that even the KDF seem to not know why they took such risks to invade a foreign nation, very complicated matrix. The territory compromises of Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa counties.

North-Eastern Kenya that is peculiar in that very difficult terrain, impenetrable and inaccessible above all a deserted place, survival is so difficult. Such a place becomes a soft spot of recruitment and radicalization of the unemployed, uneducated youths with the indoctrination and brainwashing of claims to take up arms and fight to defend the country from the enemy and slaughtering of their people. 

Al-Shabaab feels that it’s their responsibility to kick out Kenya from Somalia and from the pangs of the western countries through the proxy of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, whom they accuse of plundering Somalia of her wealth and trading it with international family.

2.1 Causes and influence of Al-Shabaab militants in North-Eastern Kenya

2.1.1 The political influence

Al-Shabaab breeds itself in a mixed clan power struggle for supremacy and control. The clans are used as stepping stones for being influential stake holders in the politics of the day. A specific clan can have a ripple effect within the region like North-Eastern Kenya, where the government at the end of the day derives its agenda on that paradigm shift. The national politics has local ripple effect too. 

To be on the government side means, your interests are taken care of, to be out of the government means a nightmare of labelling and assassinations or police judicial killings, more so if they suspect youths in a given clan to be radical Islamic sympathisers. The politicians mobilise the people and more so friendly clans on how to support the government of the day, anyone else is of contrary opinion is excluded. The politics helps those in power while those in rural areas are used as ponds in clan clashes that rise due to lack of accessibility to scarce resources.

2.1.2 Economic imbalance and unemployment

The bone of contention is Kismayo a sea port of Somalia, very economically strategized and a business hub for Al-Shabaab. Once the KDF invaded Somalia and set base at Kismayo, they cut off the economic power and influence, that displaced many Al-Shabaab militant operatives to look for all ways for survival. They started a strong mobilisation of hitting Kenya where it pains hardest and that was the tourism industry that caused foreign nations travel advisory on Kenya. This became a bull’s eye for Al-Shabaab group.

The poor economic families who depend on livestock farming and herding have always had ecological and environment imbalance: draught, desertification, livestock diseases that renders them redundant and unemployed and that means poverty hits in hence becoming a security issue. 

Most of the Al-Shabaab members are young men, from poor backgrounds, who are brainwashed and exploited by Islam extremists for their political, economic and social interests and mileage. The Muslim young men, businessmen and women who are well placed in the society feel it’s their responsibility to fight back the invaders through financially contributing towards the cause for they feel it’s a Muslim obligation to fund a group as Al-Shabaab on behalf of their militant brothers and sisters.

Since Kenya is an economic and security hub with great international influence, that means to Al-Shabaab has a good ground pad of launching its attacks. Kenya finding itself with a porous border that it has no full control over, making it an easy passage for the terrorists to enter and go out at will. 

This type of management and lack of serious attention by the government of the day creates a long-time disaster in awaiting that give terrorists like Al-Shabaab an upper hand to plan and strategize on their attacking skills because to them they are convinced KDF gives them a chance to practice their warfare on such porous borders.

3.1 The way forward

The best way out of this dilemma that can be thought of is for the KDF to withdraw their forces out of Somalia to their territorial border posts. This will allow the Somalis to sort out their clan and country brothers without scapegoating anyone as a cause of their mess. Today to impose yourself on people your ideology may not be something of fashion but colonialist attitude that has run out of time and fashion.

 The play game seems to have taken a different twist. It is no longer a fight on Al-Shabaab as a militant and terrorist group but now the trend of thought is shifting towards seeing Kenya as a Christian country invading an Islam country.

3.1.1 Corruption
The KDF has to stop the business curtails who are using their presence in Somalia to get involved in black market transactions. Kismayo seaport has turned into a business boom hub for the selling of charcoal, ivory and other exports of natural resources. There should be a total overhaul of the security machinery and intelligence systems in order to seriously fight terrorism, for there is no justification to use the same technics of the terrorism to turn it around to benefit the liberators instead of the people liberated.

3.1.2 Educational empowerment

The government should invest a lot in the educational, health, rehabilitation and research sectors, in helping to find a lasting solution towards terrorism activities on her soil that creates untold sufferings on her people in North-Eastern Kenya region, that has ripple effects to the entire region of the lake basin. 

The young men whom seem to be “out of their mind” should be helped to refocus on the meaning and dignity of life, need for re-emphasizing the need for schooling so as to brighten their future and region. Everything worth doing is risky, the government should not drag its feet towards empowering local natives who has some attachment to their relatives in Somalia.

Sometimes the politicians use the term “my people” with undertones of getting votes but have no interests for the people. The local leaders should mobilise the resources to build schools, rehabilitation centres to help those who have escaped from the terrorist groups.

The government should say enough is enough and relocate some of the many concentrated barracks located in the capital city to terrorist prone zones. Once leaders turn into thieves and liars, they cause the country to enter into crisis. The politicians should negotiate the exit of KDF out of Somalia. 

This should create a mindset that is progressive where politics and policies have to change, quality assurance of doing things has to change to improve the people’s lives out of economic death and oppression.

Leadership is about changing people’s lives and building up a base that makes the citizens to take up responsibility and cultivating a sense of being each other’s brother’s keeper. Security is a national issue, and that means all have to be involved in carrying out the measurements and evaluation, appreciating politicians who have the country at heart and taking them to task to account their utterance and political hate speech that divide different clans rather than unite in the region.

3.1.3 Government presence

The government has to be felt on the ground in the North-Eastern region of Kenya, to work with Imams, sheikhs and Muslim youths in their communities, other than simply being reactionary whenever the terrorist attacks occur.

3.1.4 Vigilance

There should be thorough vigilance and tacking of radical Muslim recruiters in their preaching in their mosque. This has been used an avenue of brainwashing the youths into subversion games against the state. The government should track down the true sources of funding of Al-Shabaab, and sympathisers, because in matters of terrorism may have roots into the government system that the government itself may be a victim of feeding terrorism in its political weak principles for a political mileage to cause chaos so as to justify its long stay in power or change the constitution to remove term limits and age limits. This breeds within the state ungovernable mechanisms to justify crack down of opposition members as terrorist sympathisers and donors to destabilise the state.

Conclusion

North-Eastern Kenya (Garissa, Marsabit, Moyale) are boiling pots of recruitment camps for Al-Shabaab and landmines of religious explosiveness. The root causes of religious fundamentalism are literally fundamental human fear of ceasing to exist other than physical, psychological or spiritual[7]But the defence of the minority against invention of the capitalistic ideology of control and suppression.

Terrorism remains the great evil of our time, and the war against this evil of our time, or generations’ great cause. If there is only military pressure and no political way out other than surrender, the armed groups the likes of Al-Shabaab will resist to the death. If you accept that you can’t kill them all and to attempt to do so you will create martyrs and more recruits for the cause, then at some stage, you will have to talk to them, and however long you continue fighting you will always arrive back, sooner or later, at the same point.

Sometimes wars are good to stop dictators to prevent massive human rights abuses or to expel an invader. On the other hand, it causes great human catastrophe. To wage war against Al-Shabaab, it’s good that we get involved in dialogue for dialogue is indispensable, and then just learn from the past mistakes that we always keep repeating when fighting terrorism. Sometimes its good do the less evil by talking to these terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab, it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s good to deal with the devil you know than an angel you don’t you.

The Kenyan government needs a military strategy to tackle groups like Al-Shabaab. It will be sad if they don’t use it. But equally it needs to be honest with itself and with its people, to prepare a political strategy to go alongside it when we face lethal and dangerous group like Al-Shabaab. 

J. Powell in his book Talking to Terrorists and How to end armed Conflicts states in his opening chapter one with the quote of J.F Kennedy that we feel should be able to catapult us to a new understanding of issues of terrorism when he says, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let’s never fear to negotiate”[8]







[1] A. BONGIOVANNI., Fondamentalismi, Parale delle Fedi, Editrice Missionaria Italia, Bologna 2010, 11
[2] M. MARTY., “Fundamentals of Fundamentalism” in L. Kaplan. Fundamentalism in Comparative Perspective, University of Massachusetts Press 1992, 17-18
[3] W. SHEPARD., Fundamentalism Christian and Islamic, Religion Vol 17, October 1987, 358
[4] J. POWELL., Talking to terrorists, how to end armed conflicts, Vintage, Penguin Random House UK 2014
[5]Ibid., 9
[6] Wikipedia “Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two” in The Free Dictionary by Farlex, Al-Shabaab (Militant group)- Translated as Youth or “The youngsters” is Jihadists terrorist group based in East Africa. In 2012, it pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda.Retrieved on 25/11/2017

[7] F.N. MUVUMBI., The journey into Islam: an attempt to awaken christians in Africa, Nairobi, The Catholic University of East Africa Publication, 2006, 1

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Focus on your own sins...

Fear and the shame of admitting one’s own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognising one’s own faults.

We sometimes become policemen of other people and we fail to see how weak our very selves are. Just sort out your own issues, don't become so holy than thou...

If you find out that you are good in that area, know that some are still struggling, help them rather than condemn them.

“It’s difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins”.

Pope Francis wants us to confront our own selves and condemn our very selves not of others.

Don't carry someone else to your confession. Not your children,  husband, wife, mother-in-law, or any other persons alongside.

The Pope continues with the following episode:
“I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband’s faults, then went on to her mother-in-law’s faults and then the sins of her neighbours. At a certain point, the confessor told her, ‘But ma’am, tell me, are you done?’ ‘No… Yes.’ ‘Great, you have finished with other people’s sins, now start to tell me yours,’” he said.

Recognising one’s own sins prepares a person to make room in his or her heart for Christ, the Pope said. But a person who has a heart “full of himself, of his own success” receives nothing because he is already satiated by his “presumed justice.”

“Listening to the voice of conscience in silence allows us to realise that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided by choices that are contrary to the Gospel,” the Pope said.

Confessing one’s sins to God and the church helps people understand that sin not only “separates us from God but also from our brothers and sisters. ”

Some people are simply experts in dividing the community. Whenever you see them around then you know something is wrong somewhere or simply a grenade is going to be thrown.

“Sin cuts, it cuts our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters, in our family, in society, in the community,” the Pope said. “Sin always cuts, separates, divides.”

The penitential rite at Mass also includes asking the intercession of Mary and all the angels and saints, which, he said, is an acknowledgement that Christians seek help from “friends and models of life” who will support them on their journey toward full communion with God.

Christians also can find the courage to “take off their masks” and seek pardon for their sins by following the example of biblical figures such as King David, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman and St Peter.

Live your life and mind your own business. We used to be taught by our parents... Lord help me shut my dirty mouth until I know what to say.

“To take measure of the fragility of the clay with which we have been formed is an experience that strengthens us,” The Pope said.

“While making us realize our weakness, it opens our heart to call upon the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of Mass.”

Calling to mind our very sins not others.  Others God will sort them,  but first sort your life and backyard. If you have washed yourself in the  blood of martyrs then feel free to condemn.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

WHEN THE ROAD IS TOO STRAIGHT, THINK TWICE


You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going off road.

Many appreciate you, admire you and love you. Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.

To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness.

It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.

Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.

To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny's author.

It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.

Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It's to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a "no". It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified.

It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us.

To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple. It is to have maturity to be able to say: "I made mistakes". It is to have the courage to say "I am sorry". It is to have the sensitivity to say, "I need you". It is to have the ability to say "I love you".

May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness .That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter a lover of wisdom.

And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.

You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience.

Use your mistakes to sculpture serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.

Never give up .... Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.

Enjoy your life...2018

An Open Letter to the Kenyan peace builders initiative...

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