Monday June 23 2014

Together, we can work towards overcoming terrorism

By Obed K Katureebe

Over the last five or so months, Kenya has come under incessant attacks by the al-Shabaab terrorists who so far have claimed many lives of the innocent Kenyans. Just few days ago, 48 people were killed in Mpeketoni coastal area by al-Shabaab suicide bombers. These criminals had the courage to brag about the heinous act they committed in a statement sent to international media houses. The killed included officers and men of the armed forces.

The attacks on Kenyans are many but the most affected areas have been the coastal areas of Mombasa, northern Kenya that borders Somalia the volatile hub of al-Shabaad and of course Nairobi.
The terror threat is not only paused to Kenyans, Ugandans and indeed the whole of East Africa is under the menace. However, Uganda remains another big target for the terrorists who continue scheming to wreck havoc just like they did in 2010.

This is largely so because Uganda was the first to break the back of the al-Shabaab and dislodged them from Mogadishu. Not only did Uganda dislodge al-Shabaab from Mogadishu, it routed them from controlling the Somali coastline where they were minting money to fund their terrorist organisations.

This they did through levying taxes to traders in Mogadishu port and also used the coastline to conduct piracy upon which large sums of ransom were paid by shippers whose vessels were now and then hijacked by the al-Shabaab pirates. The Amisom forces have since ended this lucrative business of the al-Shabaab.
From an ordinary mind, Kenya looks as if it is under siege. Nonetheless, that is far from the truth. To the contrary, the terrorists are the ones under siege. Like they say, their attacks are clear cases of kicks of a dying horse.

Of course the assaults are a well calculated tactic to divert the Kenyan government from pursuing these killers in their operational zones in Somalia and annihilate them once and for all. The whole endeavour is intended to make Kenya think of withdrawing her troops from Somalia where they are currently battling these criminals. A job they are executing so perfectly. There is no way the al-Shabaab cannot be defeated when the Amisom forces are defeating them in their traditional stronghold. Any terror group that is facing threats of total conquer will always resort to such unorthodox means.

Another terror organisation in Uganda, the Lord’s Resistant Army, attempted similar threats when they were facing defeat. This was around 2004 when both ground and air force units of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces stormed their hideouts in northern Uganda and parts of South Sudan. The LRA went on rampage massacring over 250 people in Barlonyo Internally Displaced Camp.

They conducted similar massacres in parts of eastern Uganda and came up to Soroti town. Of course they did all this thinking that UPDF would be forced to withdraw from S. Sudan in which case the LRA would have gotten a breathing space to retreat in their traditional haven in South Sudan and then reorganise to come back and cause more mayhem. This never happened. On the contrary, UPDF maintained the momentum in S Sudan and in a few months the LRA were wiped out and routed out of Uganda. The few LRA fighters who survived with their leader Joseph Kony are now hiding in the CAR.

Therefore, there is no way the al-Shabaab can survive when the Amisom has outgunned them in their rear denying them their main source of revenue to finance their terrorist operations. In fact, this should not be seen as a Kenyan security challenge. All East African member states should have in place synchronised security mechanisms to defeat these rogue elements that are hell bent to disorganise world peace.

Terrorism has continued to exist as a global nuisance with a reckless ideology that will over time be defeated by the right thinking members of the society. This is the time when all politicians from different political shades should throw away their differences and design a clear commitment to defeat terrorism in our region. Indeed victory has never eluded those who are standing on the right side of history. We shall overcome.
Mr Katureebe works with Uganda Media Centre-Office of the President.