US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Kenya is a clear indication of the deep historical relations between the two countries. It is quite significant that such a top diplomat from Washington has visited Nairobi, just about a year after President Barack Obama’s visit which was touted as the long-awaited homecoming for the first black man to occupy perhaps the highest office in the world.
Kerry’s visit is a follow-up to Obama’s, whose message to the people of Kenya her its leaders remain clear—they must fight against bad leadership, inequity and corruption.
Top of the agenda of Kerry’s current visit is security issue, on which the two countries share a common pain following deadly terrorism-related attacks that have befallen their citizens, besides the global threat posed by terrorism.
Kenyans vividly remember the fateful August 7, 1998, when simultaneous bomb explosions at the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam killed 224 people left 4,085 injured and caused considerable damage to property.
The attacks targeting the US embassies were linked to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (now deceased) and his local associates Fazul Mohamed and Abdullah Abdullah. Their sympathisers continue to inflict pain and wreak havoc in Kenya and the region.
The US has been helpful in tracking drown the leaders of these terrorist organisations. For Americans, September 11, 2001 remain etched in memory. It is the date a series of coordinated attacks by al-Qaeda killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 in the US.
The attacks targeted the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, America’s defence headquarters. After the attacks, the US declared a worldwide “war on terror”, involving open and covert military operations, new security legislation and efforts to block the financing of terrorism.
When Kerry met President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday, they discussed the consequences of terrorism at regional and global level and exchanged views on how to respond to the threat. They also discussed security situation in South Sudan and Somalia.
Many governments, Kenya included, have joined the campaign and increased domestic policing and intelligence work to combat terror. The US has supported Kenya in combating terror and Kerry’s visit is a statement of the two countries cooperation in war on the vice.
Terrorism is a complex phenomenon and Kenyan authorities have to join forces with international efforts to effectively address the threat. Kenya has borne the brunt of several terrorist attacks attributed to Somalia-based al-Shabaab.
In October 2011, the Somali military and Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), which was subsequently integrated into Amisom, mounted a coordinated raid on al-Shabaab camps in southern Somalia. Al-Shabaab gunmen on September 21, 2013 attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people.
In June 2014, the insurgents killed more than 60 people in Mpeketoni, Lamu The militants struck the Garissa University College last year, killing 147 students and injuring dozens and in January, this year the terror group attacked a KDF camp in El Adde, Somalia.
KDF and Amisom have mounted successful retaliatory attacks that have weakened the terror outfit, but the threat is far from over. Fear of attacks has piled pressure on security agencies to seal all loopholes exploited by terrorists and Kerry’s visit is expected to help work out strategies on cooperation in war on terror, international law and respect for civil liberties and human rights. —[email protected]