Concrete City and flourishing global terrorist networks
Posted Thursday, September 26 2013 at 01:00
Westgate will be etched in the memories of the bereaved for a lifetime. The wanton loss of life and escalated level of meticulously planned violence that went with it.
Westgate should be a beginning of a bigger discussion to define what has fundamentally gone wrong in our political and economic system allowing these terrorist networks to flourish.
The entire world: East and West has spent the last decade focused on breaking up terrorist networks, disabling their finances, rewriting laws to punish perpetrators of terrorist acts and all conceivable means to dampen global terrorism.
While established networks like Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab have taken a beating and some optimists believe they are on their way out, the level of non-state actor led violence continues to rise globally. In the developing world, mass loss of life in large population centres continues to rise. From Mumbai, Nairobi and other emerging centres in the global economy.
In other situations, significant parts of political entities are in a silent bloody civil war. Nigeria is fighting militants both in the North and in the oil-rich Niger Delta with limited success.
The aftermath of the Egyptian revolution that toppled Mubarak has led to a rise of frequent violence and loss of life. While in Iraq regular killings no longer attract press coverage.
In Nairobi, a new dimension is forming part of the narrative. The West has a new export, continental transplants. In the Westgate attack, a suppressed narrative reveals that at least three or four of the attackers were American and British nationals.
The Americans are believed to be young men of Somali origin but the British national travelling on a South African passport is Irish. Within these countries, terrorist planning cells not only exist but are growing and strike with irregularity but do strike.
In the week before the Westgate attack, the global press carried a story about the ongoing regulatory efforts to shut out money transfer dealers from the banking system.
Most banking laws no longer carry any leeway for bankers to choose banking clients on the terrorist-watch list regardless of how these entities get there. These money transfer operations are critical to the global $2 trillion money transfer business dominated by remittances from immigrants to domestic communities: symptoms of other failures: Uganda collects $800 million a year in remittances. Somalia further down the list of failed states, collects $1.5 billion a year.
There is a lot of tension between new money, old money and kyeyo money that may have found an outlet in this new terrorist paradigm. While the venerated Harvard professor Samuel Huntington described it in his work as the “Clash of Civilisations”, this new paradigm has clear overtones.
Westgate is owned by wealthy Israeli financiers. The super mall or concrete city concept is a big threat to downtown, informal and illicit businesses where incomes, wages, even “taxes” are off the books.
The new economic sheriffs in town are very visible. They rise above the general skyline. Even in the most squeezed areas, a lot of mayhem is generated to ensure their stay. Uptown and downtown have a lot of interconnected relationships. It is very likely a computer retailer uptown collects his stock from downtown for a modest mark-up. So do second-hand clothes from downtown that are pressed in homes before being put on racks uptown.
Players in the big money sector that seek to consolidate all these activities western style with rows of cheap imported merchandise made in China or players who want to come and sell processed food backed by local political heavyweights, may want to pause for a moment or so.
Whereas the criminal justice system in Western countries is used to shut out crime and is used to foster “forced” order; in Africa it will be our failure to resolve the armies of the poor, hungry and destitute that will graduate recruits for these global networks.
All major cities have growing criminal networks that are only a few years from graduating into the next big boss, small boss criminal network with an ability to forment terror and anguish in their wake.
Mr Ssemogerere, an attorney and social entrepreneur, practices law in New York. email@example.com