East Africa's tough security test

From an irrational massacre of students in a Kenyan University to a brutal murder of a prosecutor in Kampala and a brewing political crisis in Burundi, this is a tough test for East Africa’s security and one that calls for urgent solutions.

From an irrational massacre of students in a Kenyan University to a brutal murder of a prosecutor in Kampala and a brewing political crisis in Burundi, this is a tough test for East Africa’s security and one that calls for urgent solutions.

Although Garissa in North-Eastern Kenya is about 1600 km away from Kigali,we could smell the blood of the 150 students murdered at the University, in a month where Rwanda will be remembering the million lives lost in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In Uganda, as relatives and friends gathered to see off the slain prosecutor Joan Kagezi, who was murdered in a Kampala street, those watching the televised news coverage in Kigali couldn’t help but feel for her orphaned children.

Even closer to our borders, some of our Burundian siblings have already started to skedaddle in fright ahead of a presidential election that everyone wishes happens peacefully; we pray that it does.

In Rwanda, political nostalgia is unnecessarily budding as 2017 nears; a few voices are worried of a political vacuum that could breed instability if the people’s liberator decided to leave the presidency at the end of his term.

Thankfully, he has allayed those fears assuring people that he won’t let anything disrupt the security and freedoms that everyone currently enjoys. This should put all worries to bed; change or no change, there will be peace and stability in Rwanda.

Tanzania seems to be the only place devoid of political uncertainty, at the moment, which gives a chance for the EAC secretariat in Arusha to use the serenity there to workout measures to fill the widening pockets of insecurity in the region.

The Kenyan insecurity problem, in my view should top the region’s concerns. Anextraordinary summit of top security officials in the region should plan to meet, as soon as possible to discuss a grand strategy to help East Africa’s largest economy defeat Al-Shabab.

Visualize the five East African partner states as little huts in a small community; then gunmen from a neigbouring village attack one of these huts, and kill dozens of family members before running away with impunity.

Naturally, in any community set-up, the neigbours would be expected to react either by joining in a chase to catch the intruders or by planning a meticulous counterattack that will be lethal enough to stop future retaliation.That hasn’t happened.

We have all joined Kenyans in crying for the loss of their loved ones; it’s good but not enough; Al-Shabab needs a thorough beating, a beating so lethal that their reprisals needn’t be feared.

And if you consider all options, you’ll find that it’s the region only option, to jointly attack Al-Shabab strongholds and rid the region of what could turn out to be a security cancer.

Fear is Al-Shabab’s master card. Analysts say that the attacks are to punish Kenya for sending troops to Somalia and by killing civilians pressure will mount to force the government to withdraw its forces.

The same theory has been used to explain Al-Shabab linked attacks in Uganda. Indeed, at the time of her murder, Joan Kagezi was leading the prosecution process in the trial of suspects of the 2010 Kampala suicide bombing that killed 76 people.

Her killing has successfully planted fear among Ugandans. The trial of the suspects has been suspended. And on Friday, Police issued a fresh terror warning of an attack similar to that of Garissa, on a university located in Kampala.

These days, there are more attacks on Kenya than in Mogadishu, which is telling enough; that African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has moved closer to pacifying Mogadishu and restore central government authority in a country that hasn’t seen one since 1991.

It’s a task that a United States led UN-mission failed at disastrously and ended with a forced exit in the mid-90s.

The defeat and withdrawal of the UN forces in Somalia was a major victory to Militia that took over the running of the country in the absence of a central authority.

But Ugandan led AMISOM forces have almost managed to restore sanity in Mogadishu which would pose great benefits to East Africa, including a possible admission as the fifth member of the EAC.

However, such a development would be a major blow to these tribal militia groups as they would have no more lawlessness to exploit.

The attacks on Kenya and Uganda which have independently dealt the Al-Shabab serious blows in the past are just aimed at distracting these efforts something the region shouldn’t allow to happen.

There’s one more battle in the war to liberate Somalia; fight and defeat Al-Shabab.