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African securityKenya appears to be drifting toward a violent break-up
As Kenya is trying to cope with the grief following last Thursday’s al-Shabaab massacre of 148 Christian students at Garissa University in north-east Kenya, analysts and scholars are focused on the implications of the attack for the future of Kenya. These analysts say that the intensifying terror campaign by the Islamist al-Shabaab may gradually, but inexorably, deepens the religious divisions in Kenya, a country which was once seen as an island of stability and progress in a volatile region. Since independence in 1963, successive Kenyan governments have purposefully neglected the Muslim north-east, a region mired in debilitating poverty and lack of opportunity. As is the case with Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria, al-Shabaab, too, is exploiting regional grievances and the sense of alienation to establish itself as the champion of the marginalized Muslim communities in the north-east. Since 2011, the central government has begun to allocate more funds to development projects in the north-east, but the steady departure of thousands of Christians, many of them professionals – teachers, medical personnel, engineers, agronomists – from the dangerous north-east for safer places in central and south Kenya, has undermined these efforts.
Last Thursday al-Shabaab terrorists attacked the Garissa University campus, located in a town about 100 miles from the border with Somalia. The gunmen separated Muslim from Christian students, then killed 148 Christian students and six security officers.
As Kenya is trying to cope with the grief accompanying yet another al-Shabaab massacre of civilians, analysts and scholars are focused on the implications of the attack for the future of Kenya. Analysts say that it is possible that the intensifying terror campaign by the Islamist al-Shabaab may gradually, but inexorably, deepen the religious divisions in Kenya, a country which was once seen as an island of stability and progress in a volatile region.
These analysts say that al-Shabaab’s ultimate aim may be to emulate the strategy of the Islamist Boko Haram militia in Nigeria, which, in the face of a corrupt government and an incompetent military, has been able to take control over a large territory in northeast Nigeria and impose its version of sharia law there.
“This is a very serious situation,” Tom Wolf, a political scientist who works at a polling firm that tracks public attitudes to the security situation in the region, told the Guardian. “There have been media reports of collaboration in terms of training and exchanging ideas between Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, but it is essential to study the Shabaab’s aims in greater detail to see what their goals are.
“If they move more explicitly in the direction of fighting western education and seek to advance these goals consistently in north-eastern Kenya — as Boko Haram have done in Nigeria — that will obviously be very worrisome.”
The Guardian notes that Kenya is a land of many contradictions. Its capital, Nairobi, is booming. The gleaming city has attracted a well-educated and growing middle class, and foreign investors have been putting money into the economy.
More and more major international firm pick the Kenyan capital as their regional hub. General Electric, Google, IBM, Visa International, MoneyGram, Nestlé, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation are among those that have opened African or regional headquarters in downtown Nairobi.
Nairobi has also been called Africa’s “silicon savannah” for the many hi-tech companies which call it home.