By Baraka Sudi
Yesterdayâ€™s Al Shaababâ€™s dastardly act in Garissa in which the lives of 147 innocent students were brutally truncated has yet again brought to the fore not only the state of our security services but also the wisdom of our enterprise in Somalia.
Losing any life is bad but losing over 147 lives of aspiring young men and women due to governmentâ€™s negligence is criminal. Somebody has to be lined against the wall and the necessary be done. Yet, that is unlikely to be done.
The person in whose hands we have entrusted our security has once again placed the blame on the strangest of areas- the judiciary. How could he link the attack with the delayed deployment of police recruited in a thoroughly corrupt exercise? How does Uhuru fit this misplaced narrative with the fact that over 200 policemen and women are guarding the Kibaki family, Awori family and the Mary Wambui family in their various homes in gated estates that have close to zero security threat and only 2 policemen guarding over 1,000 students in a campus located in a very high risk area?
That is why Kenya is in the dumps. Security, a constitutional right, is now only a preserve of the wealthy and powerful. The lives of us ordinary Kenyans do not matter anymore. In fact, even this war we are finding ourselves in, and whose consequences have hit us the hardest, was started without our input.
One morning in 2011 Kenyans woke up to news that the army had crossed into Somalia and was at war with Al Shaabab. The reasons given for the invasion was Al Shaababâ€™s attacks in North Eastern and kidnapping of a French tourist in north coast.
Most Kenyans, even the well-informed ones, were too eager to see the army in action to raise any objections. Yet clearly the war itself was not just illegal but also stupid and unnecessary. In both the old and the new constitution, the president cannot declare war or a state of emergency without approval of the legislature.
Kibaki, sold to us as the father of our new constitution, never sought such kind of approval. In fact, most MPâ€™s only learnt of Kenyaâ€™s invasion of Somalia through the media like the rest of us. This act of utter arrogance and impunity on the part of Kibaki has set a dangerous precedent whose import many are yet to realize. It is no accident that this provision exists in almost all the constitutions of democratic nations.
In a democracy, sovereignty lies with the people. And there is no higher exercise of sovereignty than declaration of war. That a war was declared on a non-state actor outside our bodies in the name of the people of Kenya without their input through their representatives in parliament is treasonous to say the least.
The fact that no one of high standing, including Charles Nyachae the guardian of our constitution, condemned this flagrant violation of the supreme law gives a go-ahead for future presidents to comfortably send our sons and daughters to die upon trifling pretexts- or for the benefit of the military-industrial complex. Just as the declaration of the war was done in total secrecy, the conduct too has remained top secret.
Where I come from 3 soldiers have already been buried having died in Somalian battlefields leaving their widows, children and relatives despondent. What is surprising is that the media never notes such casualties or even bothers to inquire.
The worst that can happen to a soldier is to give the ultimate sacrifice for a course only best understood by top politicians and generals and to be buried secretly without any gratitude of a people he died so that they can live. Such sacrifices of blood and treasure cannot go on indefinitely. As Hitler, the greatest warmonger of all time, was fond of saying, â€œstarting a war is like entering a dark room- you never what you will find in.â€ That is exactly what we have found in this ill-conceived war.
Instead of victory, jubilation and security we have found pain and bitter tears. The soldiers dying on the battlefield are just a tiny fraction of the casualties we have endured. As yesterdays over 147 deaths show, the vast number of victims of this military adventure (or misadventure) have been Kenyan civilians that Kibaki and the military generals saw no reason to consult before sending their brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to die in Somalia.
In fact, far more Kenyans have died than Al Shaabab militia men in this war. Yet this terrible sacrifice has brought us neither honour nor security. That brings us to the main issue of any war- objective(s). What are we in Somalia to achieve? What is our exit strategy?
If our objective, as both Kibaki and Uhuru have vaguely talked about, is to annihilate Al Shaabab then we are in for a rude shock. 72 years ago on a month like this at the height of World War 2, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini flew to Berlin to urge Hitler to make peace with Stalin.
In Mussoliniâ€™s assessment, the very vast size of Russia made it unconquerable. The same can be said of Al Shaabab- the very nature of this organization and its objectives makes the idea of its military defeat ridiculous. Even though it has a sizable number of men-at-arms, it is primarily a terror group and not a military organization that can be meaningfully engaged by conventional military forces.
As the name suggests, terror groups like Al Shaabab seek to achieve their objectives through striking terror in their opponents and not bringing them on their knees by force of arms. It is telling that KDF has emerged victorious in all its military engagements with Al Shaabab.
Yet these battlefield victories have not blunted Al Shaababs potency as a security threat to Kenya. In fact, they make us more insecure as Al Shaabab increasingly resorts to asymmetrical warfare which turns every Kenyan town, village, homestead, office, school etc a target for terror attacks. That is why the ferocity of the terror attacks has increased with the increase of victories of AU forces.
In dealing with Al Shaabab, what constitutes success is our ability to thwart their attacks on us not KDFâ€™s victories. Viewed this way, our failure has been terrible. This very fact that military victories in Somalia are having no effect on our internal security should remove all doubt in all and sundry that our (or rather) Kibakiâ€™s invasion of Somalia on the pretext of making Kenya safer was a grievous mistake.
What Kenya needs to keep itself safe is not boots but brains on the ground. By brains I mean a shift of emphasis from force of arms to force of intelligence. We must increase our intelligence gathering capabilities both in Kenya and Somalia. It is disheartening to learn, as Wikileaks revealed, that 70% of Kenyaâ€™s intelligence effort is directed at senior politicians and not our enemies like Al Shaabab. Mr. President, that is where the problem is, not empty beds in Kiganjo! What is to be done? We need to start a gradual withdrawal of our troops, not because Al Shaabab demands so but because their actions in Somalia have no bearing on our security.
Only a small group of officers should be left to help in the training of Somaliaâ€™s army into a capable fighting unit. As our military men and women head back west to their homes, we should flood east with our intelligence offices.
If the USA has been able to prevent major terrorist attacks from taking place on its soil since 9/11, it is because of its upgrade of its intelligence gathering capabilities and not its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to increased sophistication of the CIA as far as intelligence gathering is concerned and better cooperation with other intelligence agencies across the world, the USA has been able to thwart terror attacks originating from countries as far apart as Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia among many others where it has zero military presence.
We need to increase our intelligence cooperation with such high-tech and experienced intelligence agencies. The fact that Uhuru continues to give more premium to his pride and ego than the security of ordinary Kenyans, even in the face of terrible terror attacks is galling.
If Uhuru is the worst Kenyan president on security matters, then part of the reason is his intransigence in dealing with western powers. Just 2 days ago British and Australian governments issued travel advisories to their citizens based on credible intelligence reports of pending terror attacks in Kenya. What did the president do? He angrily dismissed them, as usual, and even went as far as urging black Africans to visit Kenya because â€œKenya is as safe as any country in the world!â€ Less than 16 hours later Al Shaabab and incompetence reminded the whole world that â€œKenya is as dangerous as any failed state in the world.â€
That foreign governments have more intelligence on Kenya than our own government is a shame beyond description. Instead of bursting in anger anytime they act on their intelligence for the benefit of their citizens, why canâ€™t we increase our cooperation with such intelligence agencies? It is worthwhile to note that Al Shaabab has declared war not only on Kenyans but also on Westerners. Yet no European, American or Australian has been killed in their attacks except in Westgate. This is not because it has not tried to kill them but because of their reliance on intelligence, not weapons, as their best defenders. That is what we need- brains in Somalia, not boots!