In the good old days when Kenya was metaphorically referred to as “an island of peace in a sea of turmoil” national security was anchored on the deterrence

theory. Under this theory, government security apparatus were so effective that Kenyans would rest assured that any criminal incident would be dealt with expeditiously, persuasively and comprehensively. Even criminals or would be criminals knew very well that their anti-social activities would be countered effectively. Knowing that the security apparatus were effective and up to the task, criminals would think twice before committing crimes. The older generation of Nairobians,
at least, remembers the covert but very effective crime-bursting exploits of the late Patrick Shaw. The older generation of rural folks or university students would
certainly not forget the finality that the General Service Unit (GSU), popularly known as “Fanya Fujo Uone (FFU)”, brought when called in to restore public order.

In view of the foregoing, the underlying national security principle was the deterrence theory where criminals or potential criminals would refrain from engaging in criminal activities because they knew the security agencies would catch up with them promptly and effectively. In essence, the deterrence approach to national security was sustained because the government security apparatus built for themselves a reputation of effectiveness without necessarily being brutal. The deterrence theory also gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons. It took on a unique connotation during this time as an inferior nuclear force, by virtue of its extreme destructive power, could deter a more powerful adversary provided that this force could be protected against destruction by a surprise attack. In essence, deterrence is a strategy intended to dissuade an adversary from taking an action not yet started, or to prevent them from doing something that another desires. Writing in 1959, security analyst and strategist Bernard Brodie pointed out that a credible nuclear deterrent must be always at the ready, yet never used.

We have cited this theory because the rampant insecurity that dogs Kenya today is a result of the total erosion of the deterrence strategy that government security agencies had built for decades. Due to endemic corruption, lethargic approach to emergency situations and, to a large extent, nonsensical patronage, Kenyans have lost confidence in the ability and commitment of the police to protect them. Criminals or would be criminals also know that they can get away with  any criminal activity because police lack the effectiveness of yester years. Let us take the example of poor Meshack Yebei, the alleged ICC witness who was abducted a week ago only for his mutilated body to be found dumped in a river. According to family accounts relayed through the media, Yebei’s disappearance
was reported promptly to the police. In fact, some eye witness accounts have it that he was abducted in broad daylight at Turbo shopping centre as he went to buy bottled water for his sick child. In the good old days, Yebei’s abductors would not even have moved with him for 500 metres before police caught up with them because hawk-eyed and efficient Special Branch (today’s National Intelligence Service) officers would have noticed the commotion and promptly swung into action. Hence, the reason Yebei’s killers had the audacity to adduct him in broad day light is because there was nothing and nobody to deter them—the killers knew that security agencies are either ineffective or compromised and that nobody would respond to rescue the poor soul. As they say, the rest is history. Due to lack of confidence in the ability or commitment of the police to protect the public, all sorts of criminals are emboldened and today the government is finding it extremely difficult to deal with one of the most serious threats to national security— terrorism. The Muslim community in Kenya which, due to modern global politics and security concerns, is blamed for almost all terrorist activities is today so devastated and confused that it doesn’t even know how to assist the government in the fight against the menace. And all this is due to one main factor—majority of Muslims in Kenya today feel that they have all been unfairly condemned as terrorists and that they are now a legitimate target of extrajudicial killings.

The reason behind this feeling, real or imagined, is the ineffectiveness or unwillingness on the part of the police to unravel the killing of over 20 Muslim clerics in what many believe to be targeted executions. Many Kenyan Muslims, at least, understand the violent killing of controversial clerics such as Sheikh Aboud Rogo and Abubakar Shariff Ahmed (alias Makaburi) because the two had publicly declared their radical and extreme views with regard to terrorism. But the violent death at the hands of gunmen of Sheikh Mohammed Idris and Sheikh Salim Bakari Mwarangi has left a sour taste in the mouths of majority of well-intentioned Muslims. Sheikh Idris and Sheikh Mwarangi were key players in various anti-radicalization programmes initiated by the Muslim community to stem the proliferation of extremist belief systems used to justify terrorism in the name of Islam. But when they were killed at the hands of yet to apprehended gunmen suspected to
be agents of radical groups opposed to their anti-extremism stand, the Muslim community lost confidence in the police to protect even those who are willing to
assist in the fight against terrorism. Hence, with nothing to deter criminals, Muslims are slowly and steadily shying away from any constructive engagement in the fight against terror. With this kind of attitude and suspicion spreading among the Muslim community, the war against terrorism is as good as lost.

And the situation is not any better across the border. Uganda Muslim Supreme Council recently issued a press statement expressing concern over ‘targeted’ killing
of Muslim clerics in Uganda. The grand Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje wants the killers of Sheikh Yusuf Madangu (Imam of Masjid Umar in Bugiri), Sheikh Abdul Jawad (Imam of Namayemba Mosque (Bugiri), Sheikh Abdulkarim Sentamu (prominent street preacher), Haji Sebaggala Abdulrahman (a security operative), and Haji Kiweewa Kigejogejoa (prominent businessman) brought to book so that the people, especially Muslims, can have confidence in the Ugandan authorities to do justice. With the latest killings of Haji Mustafa Bahiga in Kampala and Dr Abdulkadir Muwaya in Mayuge, fear continues to rise among Muslims in the East African region that they are not wanted, hence a move to subdue and silence them in the name of fighting terrorism. “Failure to bring the culprits to book will lead to suspicions and possible acts of revenge in which more innocent people will be targeted,” the Ugandan grand Mufti said.

In the face of such unresolved killings, regional security forces need to restore the people’s confidence, especially Muslims, by rebuilding their reputations based  on the time-honoured deterrence theory. Given the runaway insecurity, especially with regard to terrorism, regional security apparatus should start demonstrating
that they are able to deal with criminal activities decisively, convincingly and in a just manner. Anything short of that will completely erode the confidence of Muslims in even the most genuine antiterrorism programme.

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