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Real Challenges, Real Solutions

Governing by Lying: On the Death Cards of Drought, Deceit & Delinquency

By Sitati Wasilwa

“Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not to his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Kenya’s current administration is without doubt an archetype of incompetence and delinquency based on the high levels of misgovernance witnessed over the last six years.

A legendary distinction of the Jubilee administration in comparison with the country’s past administrations is governing not just by lying, but by repeatedly doing so even when Kenyans are dying and suffering because of drought.

In an assemblage of what may be termed as “a grand presentation and sanctification of alternative, erroneous and disturbing facts”, the administration’s purported “machinists” denied any deaths resulting from drought that has largely affected Turkana and Baringo counties as well as counties in the Northern Frontier region.

Contrary to the “facts” presented by the “machinists”, there is undeniable evidence that Kenyans are dying because of the ravaging effects of drought.

Development Agenda

Featured twice on Jubilee’s agenda for the much touted but hardly evident development is creation of a food secure state; first through its manifesto, “Agenda for Kenya 2013-2017” harmonized with the second medium-term plan (2013-2017) of Vision 2030; and secondly, through its 2017 manifesto integrated with the third medium-term plan (2018-2022) commonly known as the “Big Four Agenda.”

A vague and totally empty campaign promise that now offers comic relief to politically conscious citizens regards the expected miraculous productivity of the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project, the regime’s much acclaimed signature programme.

While launching Jubilee Party’s election manifesto in 2017, its deputy party leader William Ruto, in a utopic frenzy, remarked that the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project would produce 30,000 bags of maize each month beginning July 2018. This remains a politically fat and equally irrelevant statement.

The Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project is one of the regime’s cash cow, a soon-to-be white elephant. A recent article revealed the irrigation project as Jubilee’s equivalent of the infamous Goldenberg Scandal, a fact confirmed by an unnamed wheeler-dealer of the administration.

Unsurprisingly, the irrigation project has been dogged by corruption. The Auditor General has raised fundamental questions about the usage of finances allocated to the project. Green Arava, an Israeli firm contracted to develop a model farm at the irrigation scheme, threatened to abandon its operations this year after not being paid as per the contractual agreement.

Additionally, the regime’s intention to construct dams with the aim of enhancing food production in regions perennially affected by drought and famine has turned out to be a scandalous affair. Ridiculously and unintelligently, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Agriculture claims that thirty one dams will be constructed before the onset of the long rains. Are Kenyans – politically conscious Kenyans – that stupid to be lied to?

Deceitful PR: Of Food Relief Pilgrimages

To be a gallant politician one must be a master opportunist, a firm believer in propaganda and a “saviour” of the poor, needy and desperate masses.

Close to six decades since the British imperialists ceded political power to Kenyans, ordinary folks are still economically impoverished because of the invisible hand of the tiny elite that has strangulated the country’s economy by plundering resources.

The politico-economic tyranny occasioned by the tiny elite has dominated Kenya’s post-colonial history, a true indication of lack of economic and political independence for ordinary Kenyans. The success of this tiny elite is through the creation of a kleptocratic political monopoly that oversupplies short-term solutions and undersupplies long-term solutions.

We’ve got to remember that the yearly food relief pilgrimages are consequences of short-termism fashioned by Kenya’s tyrannical tiny elite.

Such short-termism keeps the masses in a perpetual state of dependence on the tiny elite and acts as fodder for gaining political capital. Acts of benevolence especially by politicians in helping desperate and poor citizens qualify as deceitful public relations exercises, and such is the case with the food relief distribution activities in the affected counties.

Voting & Political ‘Misleadership’

A country’s economic well-being or lack thereof depends on the nature of its political leadership. But the nature of the political leadership is an outcome of the voting patterns of the majority, and a reflection of the thought processes of a significant number of citizens.

High affinity to short-term solutions meant to address perennial challenges such as drought and famine would be avoidable only if the republic’s politics was based on relevant political ideologies. But as Bryan Caplan notes in his book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, “in real-world political settings, the price of ideological loyalty is close to zero…” No wonder ideologically deficient politics is the order of the day in Kenya.

A handful of Jubilee administration supporters who voted twice in 2017 to endorse the regime’s corruption and misgovernance have suddenly turned into its critics. This is pretence and ignorance.

In fact, Caplan further notes in his book that “voter ignorance opens the door to severe government failure”, and Kenya would have avoided such a failed government if only voters made right decisions at the ballot by not ignoring the terrible record of most of the politicians .

County governments especially in the regions affected by drought need to prioritize agriculture which is a devolved function.

The only way forward for Kenya to avoid embarrassing situations like deaths resulting from drought, and food relief pilgrimages is to collectively root out the corrupt, tyrannical and imperialistic tiny elite that promotes state capture hence political ‘misleadership.’ Is this possible? Only if the misled significant majority embraces progressive thinking.

swwSitati Wasilwa is a political economist, consultant on political and economic governance, public policy, geopolitics and geo-economics, and a youth leader at YMCA Kenya. He also blogs at The Insight and can be contacted through sitatiwasilwa13@gmail.com. 

Of the Chinese Fish, Imbalanced Trade, Debt & Market Captivity

By Sitati Wasilwa

“Debt is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa.” – Thomas Sankara.

“He who feeds you, controls you.” – Thomas Sankara.

While acknowledging the importance of borrowing as a measure aimed at financing key projects and economic activities for a country, the primary concern remains the sustainability of debt, and how debt financing affects the overall economic performance.

With a number of debt analysts, for instance the Jubilee Debt Campaign, pointing out to an impending debt crisis for African countries, it would be fundamental to first consider the politics and economics of external debt, and secondly, the conditionalities attached to it.

In regards to the politics and economics of external debt, the late Thomas Sankara aptly summarizes it in terms of the reconquest of Africa. Essentially, loans advanced by various entities are repaid with interest, and this generates income for the creditors. As such, more Chinese debt for the African countries means more income for China, a similar case with the World Bank and other creditors.

Politically, geopolitical ambitions fuel the need for the formation and adoption of the so-called mutual trading partnerships. Elementally, such partnerships largely benefit the foreign entities that issue out loans to the developing economies.

Africa is a card shuffled by foreigners for ages resulting in dehumanizing statements such as “whoever controls Africa controls the world.” From the Arab slave trade, the Trans-Atlantic trade, colonialism and currently the neo-colonialism era, foreigners dictate the pace of Africa’s game at the global stage.

Part of the foreigners’ games of strategy include foreign aid whose failures override its successes. Advancing foreign aid in form of loans and grants comes attached with conditionalities. The World Bank and the Western states especially in the 1980s and 90s often offered foreign aid with calls for adoption of democratic institutions and market-oriented economic policies. This changed following China’s increased presence in Africa with African countries preferring to partner with the Dragon on the account of issuing loans without conditionalities.

The perception that the Chinese loans come with no conditionalities is a lie! It is commonsense economics that there is no free lunch and there must be a trade-off between cooperating entities. Therefore, for China, issuing loans to African countries is not enough. Access to African markets is a condition inherently pegged on the Chinese loans.

Recently, Uhuru Kenyatta banned the importation of fish from China arguing that the local fish market was on a free-fall. In response to the supposed ban, China, through her ambassador to Kenya Li Xuhang termed it as a trade war while threatening to impose trade sanctions including cutting funding for the economically unviable standard gauge railway line. However, the threats by the Dragon never took effect following the suspension of the ban by the Kenyan government.

Back to the moral sentiments of the indefatigable Thomas Sankara, whoever feeds you controls you. Signing of economic partnerships between African countries and foreign entities involves so many underhand deals that are never disclosed to the public. Such covert deals, in the case of China, seek to create markets for the Chinese goods, and employment for the Chinese people. The government’s suspension of the ban on Chinese fish and China’s threats exemplify the Sankarist view on foreign aid, and dispel the notion that China’s loans are free from conditionalities.

Ordinarily, trade relationships between two countries need to be a win-win affair but the so-called economic partnerships propagated by China can best be classified as highly parasitic and imbalanced.

Take a look at the trade statistics between Kenya and China and notice how it is highly imbalanced. According to the July-September 2018 issue of the Policy Monitor magazine published by the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), Kenya imported Chinese goods worth Kshs.390 billion in 2017 and exported commodities worth Kshs.9.9 billion to China in the same year.

An anachronistic plan hatched by China in 2016 to lure the East African Community member states to signing a free trade agreement with her indicates an aggressive ambition by the Asian nation to capture and control the markets of the region.

Luckily, the Kenyan government rejected the trade arrangement which would have led to the death of the Kenyan industries especially the medium and small microenterprises. In as much as this move may be termed as protectionist, it is necessary that the Kenyan government adopt highly protectionist policies to promote the growth and development of the manufacturing sector, key in creating a high number of employment opportunities.

Free trade favors advanced economies and leaves the poor, developing countries worse off. China’s intentions to convince the East African Community member states to sign the free trade agreement ignores the global economic history of development. China and the Asian Tigers realized faster economic growth and development on the basis of policies protecting the infant industries, the same case with the now classified developed economies like the USA, Germany, Britain and others.

Going back to the reaction by the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, he bluffed that Kenya’s ban on imported Chinese fish was against “the principle of free trade, the rule of law, adherence to bilateral agreements and the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).” All these aforementioned trade doctrines will never work in favor of developing countries including Kenya because of their skewed nature working to the advantage of the advanced economies.

Fast forward, was the ban on the imported Chinese fish doomed to fail? Possibly yes. In June this year, the not-so-competent Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mwangi Kiunjuri, came to the defense of the importation of the Chinese fish stating that the supply in the local market never met the demand. Quite logical.

But there are fundamental issues which if addressed would ward off the importation of fish from China. The first issue is to incentivize the production of fish especially in geographical areas where fishing is one of the main economic activities. Additionally, fish farming has to be encouraged but this should be among communities familiar with fishing.

As matter-of-factly, the Kshs.60 million fish processing factory built in Nyeri County in 2015, following the introduction of fish farming in the region as part of the 2009/2010 Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), is now considered to be a white elephant with its location among a community not accustomed to eating fish heavily influencing its collapse.

Lack of initiative by the Jubilee administration to address the root cause of the increased importation of fish from China is deliberate. Kenya is China’s captive market and with the Chinese loans and/or debts, the Mandarins will dictate what they want in exchange for their financial and technical assistance.

Failure of Kenya and other African countries to learn from history is the bane for their economic floundering. Western powers considered African countries to be captive markets during the colonial era and thereafter in the post-colonial period. The same script is being played by China; on advancing ‘cheap’ loans and controlling the markets. This is neo-colonialism and lack of economic independence.

Therefore, increase in the importation of Chinese fish has got more to do with Kenya being a captive market as a consequence of borrowing finances from China than the purported high demand and lower supply in the local fish market.

swwSitati Wasilwa is a political economist and consultant on political and economic governance, public policy, geopolitics and geo-economics (sitatiwasilwa13@gmail.com). 

Sitati Wasilwa TV Interview on BrandPlus Tv

On Tuesday 9th October, 2018, our Managing Partner Sitati Wasilwa was interviewed by Ondiro Oganga on the state and nature of corruption in Kenya. Click on the link below to watch the interview.

IMG_3378 EDITEDSitati Wasilwa interview on BrandPlus TV on the genesis, state and nature of corruption in Kenya.  

On IMF’s Visible Hand: A Look into the Outcry on Fuel Prices, Policy Missteps & the Dishonesty about It.

By Sitati Wasilwa

It’s a herculean task to be a Kenyan, a situation exacerbated by the policy missteps and misgovernance of the Jubilee administration.

From the plundering of trillions of money, the implementation of cost-ineffective projects, the dominance of two ethnic communities in government, a dejected and highly unemployed youth, hoarding of maize, consumption of poisonous food products, wanton increase in taxes and many others, it requires the common Kenyan some world-class grit to go through all these necessary evils.

But considering the concerns raised by the Kenyan public in regards to the aforementioned issues, one should not forget the dishonesty that is conveniently sidestepped while debating on these policy matters.

A good example is the debate on the recent increase in prices of petroleum products which has to be revisited while drawing out the facts and fallacies, the faults and dishonesty about it.

General Understanding

A general understanding of the visible hand of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in view of Kenya’s situation is elemental bearing in mind that this debate is full of misinformation.

To begin with, it would be important to look at the primary role (s) of the IMF for the benefit of the general public and the pseudo-economists.

IMF has three main functions: monitoring of economic and financial developments and offering policy advice to prevent economic/financial crises; offering loans to countries facing balance of payments difficulties; and provision of technical assistance and training in line with its scope of work.

As matter-of-factly, the institution’s Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) and Standby Credit Facility (SCF) are primarily lending frameworks that are intended to help countries facing the balance of payments difficulties.

Essentially, the balance of payments difficulties refer to a situation whereby a country is importing more goods, services and capital than what it is exporting. Thus, the SBA is a lending framework that allows the IMF to provide financial assistance mostly to the middle-income and advanced economies in the event of a financial crisis. On the other hand, the SCF is a framework that allows the IMF to provide financial assistance to low-income countries with the goal of correcting the short-term balance of payments problems.

Kenya’s agreement with IMF comprises of an SBA of $989.9 million and SCF of approximately $494.9 million.

Fundamentally, access to the SBA and SCF is based on the criteria determined by the IMF and at its minimum, the consenting countries are expected to implement conditionalities fronted by the Fund and pursue policies aimed at correcting the balance of payment problems.

Genesis of the Current Situation

In 2013, the Executive through The National Treasury and the Central Bank outlined a raft of policy measures meant to improve revenue collection and general economic performance of the country.

On 28th of March 2013, through a letter signed by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and then Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung’u, the Executive was committed to full implementation of the proposed changes to value-added tax (VAT).

Among the proposed changes to the country’s VAT structure was to do away with VAT exemption on petroleum. Parliament’s intervention saved face as the VAT proposals were put on hold for three years till 2016.

Amendments to the Finance Act 2016 on August 31st 2016 extended the exemption of the VAT on petroleum products for two years with the exemption coming to an end on September 1st 2018.

Subsequent extensions by Parliament to postpone the implementation of VAT on petroleum products among others can only be termed as symptomatic responses to the hazy economic policies pursued by the Jubilee administration.

Ascending to power following the highly divisive 2013 general elections, the Jubilee administration was out of favour with half of the Kenyan citizenry and the West. Therefore, it was out to mend fences by embarking on ambitious infrastructural projects which would ordinarily require to be highly financed either through borrowing or revenue collected.

Institutionalization of various infrastructural projects was intended to improve the administration’s political fortunes. With the desire to increase the collected revenue, the Executive engineered the move to restructure the VAT system.

Being in good books with the IMF would aid the Jubilee administration just in case Kenya’s economy was to be hit by a crisis. We should not forget that IMF and extensively the West have proved to be the chief lenders of last resort when economies of poor countries experience economic crises.

In any case, if the Kenyan economy was to be hit by an economic crisis under a Jubilee administration not in good terms with IMF, then regime change – a common foreign policy tool fashioned by the West – would possibly be sanctioned.

With the country’s public debt level running into headwinds, Kenyans are left with no choice but to pay high taxes to finance the costly mega-projects which make little economic sense, though politically sensible to the current administration.

Rationale of VAT on Petroleum Products

No rocket science is required to know whether the government is broke or not. Levying VAT on petroleum products is meant to raise more revenue for a Republic whose Executive and Legislature have failed in view of essentials of public finance.

Details captured in an IMF Country Report dated March 2018 indicate the commitment of the Kenyan government in implementing a number of policies.

Key among these policies include cutting expenditure, increasing revenue and the removal or significant modification of the interest rate caps. In regards to cutting expenditure, lower-priority capital projects are not to be financed.

Few weeks ago, Uhuru Kenyatta apparently issued an order stopping any new projects from being sanctioned with majority of Kenyans thinking it is a move meant to curb corruption. Essentially, the order is rooted in the administration’s commitment with the agreement reached by IMF.

Levying of the VAT on petroleum products is expected to generate Kshs.71 billion in revenue. Considering, however, the amount of finances lost through corruption, tax evasion and unnecessary tax holidays, then Treasury is clearly missing the boat.

Treasury expects that the revenue to be collected this financial year would amount to Kshs.1.92 trillion. At the beginning of the last financial year (2017/2018), Treasury targeted to collect Kshs.1.7 trillion in revenue before revising the estimates to Kshs.1.4 trillion. For the last five financial years, KRA has never been able to achieve its targets in regards to revenue and the current financial year won’t be an exception.

Rotich’s bravado not to concede to the public’s outcry on the increase in prices of petroleum products is an indication of how Treasury is desperate to raise funds bearing in mind that grave concerns have been raised on the administration’s zeal for borrowing.

Dishonesty

Inherently, the current uproar on the fuel prices and the administration’s hell-bent nature to effect the VAT on petroleum products is a game of absolute dishonesty.

Firstly, the Executive is dishonest on this policy issue. Was it not aware about this policy that would occasion a rise in the cost of living? This is incompetency at its best.

Secondly, the Treasury chiefs are a bunch of dishonest bureaucrats. For the last five years, the country’s budgets have been characterized with massive deficits. Though revenue collected has significantly increased, it is the nature of KRA to continually miss targets, and this has raised concerns on Treasury’s fiscal approach and KRA’s inefficiency.

A 2015 joint report by the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa pointed out that Kenya loses over Kshs.600 billion as a result of tax evasion. In six months leading to August 2018 tax evasion at the port of Mombasa, as reported, amounted to Kshs.100 billion. In a report published by Oxfam in January 2017, it is estimated that Kenya loses over Kshs.100 billion annually due to tax exemptions given to global corporations.

One should also consider that a third of the national budget is never accounted for then think about the billions of shillings lost. So, who is fooling who? The government should be busy sealing all these loopholes that lead to trillions of money being lost instead of pursuing policies that will ultimately generate unintended consequences. Treasury’s ineptness certainly means that looking at the bigger picture is a mirage.

Parliament as usual is full of dishonest individuals who are starkly corrupt and lack any intellectual capacity to prioritize weighty policy issues. Did Parliamentarians not foresee the impending rise in prices of petroleum products? Some have come out making claims on how the Treasury duped them to passing the VAT Act 2013 on the account that the country was expected to produce oil which would stabilize domestic petroleum prices.

Lack of Parliament’s independence is a factor that has incapacitated the institution from representing citizens in a dignified manner. Parliament operates under the wings of the Executive particularly for the ruling party, the Jubilee Party. Rigorous debates cannot take place under such conditions.

Voters are also to be blamed in regards to this game of dishonesty. It was pretty clear that the economic policies of the Jubilee administration were deeply flawed but this hardly convinced a significant number of voters to vote otherwise.

Elections need to be a matter of assessing policies aimed at improving the lives of the citizens. In the event that policies pursued by the ruling political formation lead to more misery than prosperity, then morally such an entity does not deserve to be voted in.

The IMF is dishonest about the austerity policies that it recommends for countries. Historically, IMF has fashioned this policy misstep which ignores the fortunes of residents of countries that they push to adopt policies that cut spending and raise taxes.

Spending may be reduced especially for the case of Kenya where public funds are largely wasted. Increasing taxes raises the cost of living but the IMF seems to be hell-bent in fronting this policy recommendation.

Implications & the Future

An increase in the prices of petroleum products is bound to trigger ripple effects across other sectors of the economy and social structure. Prices of other products will definitely go up as a result of the increase in the transportation costs. With the income earned by Kenya’s residents expected to be fairly stagnant then inflation will certainly occasion a rise in the cost of living, a diabolical economic and social outcome.

Furtherly, postponement of levying VAT on petroleum products would definitely lead to a catch-22 situation. In the event that Uhuru Kenyatta assents to the Finance Bill 2018, it would just be two years before we voice out our disappointment at the economically imprudent Jubilee administration.

Failure to implement the VAT on petroleum products, in CS Rotich’s words, will occasion difficulties in financing the country’s budget thus necessitating more borrowing or increasing the VAT rate on other products from 16% to 18%.

Either way, my hunch is that VAT will soon be levied on other non-VATable products as the Treasury desperately seeks to raise finances through taxation with the room for further borrowing fast contracting.

Politically, there will be no consequences going by the nature of majority of Kenyans who forget rather quickly. If a significant majority of the Republic’s voters would be voting on the basis of policy proposals and performance of the incumbents, perhaps the noises being made would only be grave wishes.

Voting is not enough. Constitutionally, citizens are empowered to air their concerns on issues affecting them. I long for the day when Kenyans will march on the streets en masse to demonstrate against nefarious policies pursued by government institutions.

On how not to manage the economy, CS Rotich and the Presidency offer crucial lessons for historical purposes. Running an economy depends on getting the fundamentals right. Trading-off an economy’s cost of living with poor, inefficient and punctured policies is a validation of getting it wrong on the fundamentals. The goose is cooked!

swwSitati Wasilwa is an economist and partner at Savic Consultants and serves as a member of the Management Committee at Kenya YMCA, Nairobi Central Branch. 

Counter-terrorism Efforts: Strides and Challenges in Kenya

By Noah Kiplagat

As a global issue, the definition of the word terrorism still remains as elusive as the first time it was used. It was first coined in France between 1793 and 1794 during what is popularly known as the “Reign of Terror”, in reference to a French revolutionary government fighting for good governance in France.

But, this government later turned brutal causing death to the people of France all in the name of justice for the people, hence the association of the word with fear and violence. Indeed it was a period of gruesome and protracted official state-sponsored violence that set the political tone for much of the use of the word ever since.

In attempting to define terrorism, pundits have argued that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist throwing the word further into the midst of definitional challenge. But, either way, the widely accepted definition of terrorism has been “the systematic use of coercive intimidation usually to service political needs.”

The term is also taken to mean “premeditated, politically motivated violence, perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national, or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence audiences.” However, this definition has not been adequate enough, and still there is the need to define those acts and omissions that are unacceptable and considered as terrorism according to the criminal justice system of a particular country.

Owing to this definitional challenge, Kenyan legislators in their wisdom saw the need not to define the word ‘terrorism’, but to adopt the definition of ‘acts of Terrorism’ which is well captured under section 2 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2012.

Other than defining terrorism as an act which involves the use of violent force against any person, the Act’s definition of terrorism encompasses acts that: endanger people’s lives; create a risk to the health of the general public; cause damage to property; disrupt the communication, financial, and transport systems; interfere with provision of essential services; jeopardize national security; pose a risk to the environment through the release of toxic or radioactive substances.

Additionally, the Act specifies terrorism as those acts carried out with the aim of advancing political, religious, and ideological causes among others, with the intention of causing fear amongst the public or compelling the government or international organisations to do or refrain from doing any act.

Having contextualized what terrorism actually means, it is now vital to shift gears and wade into the primary issue; analyzing the strides Kenya has made in the fight against terrorism. In the same breadth, the article will also highlight the challenges facing the fight against terrorism in Kenya, but before delving any further, I’ll briefly digress and look into the causes and motivators of terrorism in Kenya as this will assist in appreciating the issues dissected in this treatise.

Causes and Motivators

Evolving from the need to influence audiences, the need for survival, and the need to punish non-believers to a cause, motivators of terrorism are many, and one that has firmly gripped the world’s attention is religion, specifically Islamic Fundamentalism.

Time and again, we’ve heard publicists say that “terrorism emanates from Islam but Islam is not terrorism”, something not entirely true, but the reality is that religion encourages the most violent nature of terrorism.

With the promises of rewards in the afterlife that religious extremism espouses, terrorists find a basis to carry out suicide bombing in addition to using other inhuman tactics. This, in essence, spins the ideological motivator of terrorism manifested in the form of extremism and exclusionism.

Politics is a primary factor that causes terrorism. The lack of political inclusiveness in states or failure to address grievances raised against a certain political order either lead to terrorism or aggravate the prevalent terrorism threats.

Unfairness in the distribution of resources among different groups implies that a non-inclusive economy is another serious motivator of terrorism. With the increasing income disparities between the poor and the rich, more people are being drawn to terrorism. In particular, the Al-Shabaab has used to its advantage the economic destitution experienced by the urban poor in Kenya to recruit more followers.

Counter Terrorism Efforts

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Kenya. In 1976, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Baader-Meinhof group planned to shoot down an El Al passenger plane during a scheduled stopover in Nairobi, a plot that was thwarted after successful intelligence sharing between Israel and Kenya.

In 1980, the PFLP group masterminded a terrorist attack at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi resulting in the death of 15 people. Later on, the group pronounced that the attack was a revenge for Kenya’s assistance to Israel during the infamous ‘Entebbe Raid’, the rescue operation intended to free Israeli hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

While both attacks targeted Israeli interests, they heightened Kenya’s counter-terrorism measures for several years which saw the terrorism threat subsiding for nearly two decades. This was until the US Embassy in Nairobi was bombed by the Al- Qaeda in 1998 killing over 200 people, 12 among them being American citizens. This prompted the Kenyan government to begin, albeit slowly, a more concerted strategy aimed at countering terrorism.

In the wake of the increasing terrorist attacks by the Al-Shabaab, the Kenyan government orchestrated a military intervention – Operation Linda Nchi – in Somalia in the year 2012 as a counter-offensive strategy against the militants.

Later on, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) teamed up with other military forces drawn from Africa through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to facilitate the stabilization of the Somalia state.

Operation Linda Nchi was prompted by the deteriorating security in the country in which over 500 Kenyans died with more than 1,000 being injured due to attacks spearheaded by the Al Shabaab.

However, the military intervention in turn saw Kenya suffer from more terrorist attacks key among them the Garissa University attack, and the attack at the Westgate Mall. But, this did not come without a positive side; it led to the drafting of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2012 (POTA); a comprehensive piece of legislation that maps out and criminalizes terrorism, and related offences in the country.

Enactment of this legislation sealed the lacuna that had become a major inhibitor to the country’s counter-terrorism efforts, and in effect thereof, becoming the principal highlight in the fight against terrorism.

Two other legislations facilitate the Prevention of Terrorism Act: the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Prevention of Organized Crime Act 2010, which assist in preventing the financing of terrorism in Kenya.

Specifically, this aids section 3 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which defines a ‘specified entity’ as that which has committed or prepared to commit, attempted to commit or participated in commission of a terrorist act, or any entity acting on behalf, in direction or in association with a terrorist group.

Furtherly, section 3(3) gives the Inspector General of Police powers to make recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary that a Gazette Notice be published declaring an entity as a ‘specified entity’.

Moving a notch higher, Kenya is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-Styled Regional Body (FSRB). Being a member of FATF, Kenya established the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), a body working with investigators in reviewing suspicious transaction reports and conducting investigations of potential money laundering violations. This, in addition to POTA, demonstrates a strong commitment in countering the financing of terrorism.

Even with the Act in place, terrorist attacks continued to be witnessed across the country placing the Kenyan security agencies under sharp criticism for a supposed lack of multi-agency cooperation especially between the Police and the National Intelligence Service (NIS).

This necessitated the establishment of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), a multi-agency mechanism that ensures Kenya’s counter terrorism policies are implemented, and more importantly, it facilitates the coordination between various security agencies and with any other agency vital in the fight against terrorism.

In addition, the government launched the National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (NSCVE) with an aim of preventing radicalization of individuals. So far, the strategy has enhanced de-radicalization among individuals considered as easy targets for radicalization by terrorist groups. The strategy also focuses on creation of awareness through introduction of counter-violent extremist studies in the Kenyan education curriculum.

Kenya has been instrumental in facilitating stabilization in Somalia alongside Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi through the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). However, talks are underway to see phased withdrawal of AMISOM troops from Somalia, a move that has created mixed reactions among policy analysts.

Some experts argue out that the withdrawal of AMISOM troops might see the Al-Shabaab re-organize and fill the gap left by the departing soldiers hence the need to strengthen the peace-keeping force.

Securing the porous Kenya-Somalia border is a measure of necessity that will largely limit the Al-Shabaab militants from entering the country. Currently, construction of the 400 km wall along the Kenya-Somalia border is going on, and this will enhance the border checks and surveillance on activities carried out by the communities living along the border in the two countries.

Lastly, trainings on how to counter terrorism have been enhanced, not just for the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), but also for the entire security agencies through strategies such as procurement of modern-day warfare equipments. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of individuals recruited to join the National Police Service. As a result, Kenya has surpassed the United Nations’ (UN) benchmark of 1 police officer to 450 people.

Conclusion

It is evident that Kenya has made steady strides in its counter-terrorism efforts, in view of the three factors that precipitate recruitment of terrorists, which according to William Rosenau (2005) include: a  lack  of  state  capacity,  particularly  in  the  areas  of  police, intelligence,  and  law  enforcement; a  ‘mobilizing  belief’  such  as Salafist/jihadist extremism;  and ‘appropriate  agitators’ who  can propagate these  ideas  and  create  an  effective  terrorist  force”.

And while capacity building has been adequately enhanced in addition to de-radicalization measures, challenges are still prevalent and this article recommends the following:

  • Construction and development of forensic laboratories across the country to facilitate speedy investigations on possible terrorist threats.
  • Heighten the fight against corruption that is deep-rooted in the criminal justice system.
  • Improvement in public support in the fight against terrorism by intensifying the process of awareness creation in regards to terrorist activities.

 

IMG-20180625-WA0000Noah Kiplagat is a lawyer working with the National Police Service (noahkiplagat3@gmail.com). 

 

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