Al-Shabaab and Nairobi massacre


Sir, – The massacre of at least 21 civilians by a unit of Al-Shabaab fighters at a hotel in Nairobi is the third major attack on the Kenyan state within the last five years; the two previous being at the Westgate shopping mall (71 fatalities) and the Garissa University College (148 fatalities).

While the official Al-Shabaab explanation is that it is retaliatory action for Kenya’s military intervention in Southern Somalia and its participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), there is a masking of broader Al-Shabaab strategy. This is to destabilise the neighbouring states to Somalia with Somali-speaking minority populations (this includes Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti) in order to establish a sharia-based East African Caliphate, based geographically on a “Greater Somalia”.

The Irish Times cites the president of Kenya as calling for calm while order is being re-established (World News, January 16th). Other sources cite him as saying that the “planners of the assault will be relentlessly pursued”. The more than two million ethnic Somali Kenyans (spread over the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh,as well as Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties) may well feel the heavy hand of the Kenyan security forces, which the international community should counsel to prevent, in order not to alienate this important ethnic and religious segment of the Kenyan state.

The threat of Al-Shabaab can only be ignored by the West at its peril. It has been described as the world’s largest and most effective jihadist organisation. The US-based Africa Centre for Strategic Studies states that almost half of all Islamist-related violence in Africa may be attributed to Al-Shabaab. Renewed international effort both in terms of supporting the African Union and the governments of Somalia and Kenya in their political and military campaign against Al-Shabaab atrocities is, in effect, an extension of their duty of care to their own populations, given the credible level of linked terrorist threats to migrant communities. The Trump administration may also have second thoughts about running down its troop commitment to the Africa Command. – Yours, etc,