Kenya Flag at Half Mast

Raising the Kenyan Flag. Courtesy: Aaron Knox, Flikr, "Raising the Flag".

Raising the Kenyan Flag. Courtesy: Aaron Knox, Flikr, “Raising the Flag”.

The hashtag, #GarissaAttack is the recent trend on social media here in Kenya, and it is not good news trending. Social media is a good way to show solidarity. On Thursday 2nd April 2015, 147 students were killed and 79 injured after Al-Shabaab terrorists shot their way into Garissa University College in Kenya, almost 370 km from Nairobi. I returned to Nairobi on Tuesday 6th April to see the beloved Kenyan flag flying at half-mast not in celebration of another gold medal for a marathon win, but mourning a terrorist attack. Similar attacks have taken place at Kenya’s coast previously and in Nairobi’s capital at the #Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013. Uganda’s capital, Kampala, was bombed in July 2010, with Al Shabab at the head of it. Many more terrorism attacks happen in our world. Solutions are complex, and we need to keep on digging deeper.

What is the solution? It requires an array of solutions. I’m no expert at the complex nature of terrorism, organised crime, corruption and business that results in all this. I wish I knew the entire story, and who is to blame.

A good article suggests that the answer is not rooted in religion. Religion is being “used” as a pretext to justify wrongs. We know that religion is a great gift, which proposes answers leading to our transcendental nature. We cannot allow that religion and its heritage be misused, we need to see beyond. I too have wonderful brethren from Islam, and they have a lot to teach me. I for example like the modesty that Islam displays.

The USA, the world’s greatest military power suffered the 9/11 attacks, even with its sophistication in intelligence, and security systems. In Africa, we need to make significant improvements to curb the complex nature of terrorism, with a multicultural and multi-ideological society. Terrorist activity can occur anytime, anywhere. Everything is related. This is escalated by porous borders, corruption, poor security platforms, insufficient resources, weak law enforcement and judicial institutions.

There are already significant legal instruments proposed at the African Union and in specific regions of Africa, aimed at monitoring cross border activities, hampered by little adherence. Counter-terrorism competence in the legal and operational capacities is lacking. Terrorist attacks always have the advantage of surprise making precise prediction difficult. Youth are the target recruits for terrorism; the lure of “employment” from terrorist groups is on the rise. Governments must aim at addressing the perennial issue of unemployment through significant revamping of education systems that train in skills and innovation to prepare for the dynamics of the global workplace.

Africa has several civil wars where terrorism agents easily traverse conflict areas in the absence of stable environments to monitor such operations, let alone develop strategies to achieve progress. Instead of direct attacks on terrorist groups governments can opt for negotiation; intelligence systems need to be more advanced; citizens need to be educated on terrorism so that they become part of a network of  informants in case of suspect activity. Effective border control; border security; territorial control; effective law enforcement; rule of law and good governance; empowering women and young adults to participate equally in the economic, social and political dynamics of the state; and ensuring the protection of the human rights of all citizens are steps towards curbing terrorism. It will be a catastrophe if terrorist groups started used nuclear weapons.

World Youth Alliance’s Certified Training Program, in the chapter of freedom, have helped me to understand that the understanding of freedom plays a role in terrorism. As affirmed by St. John Paul II, “Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery”. George Weigel reinforces the same idea in A Better Concept of Freedom, that:

Freedom is the means by which, exercising both our reason and our will, we act on the natural longing for truth, for goodness, and for happiness that is built into us as human beings. Freedom is something that grows in us, and the habit of living freedom wisely must be developed through education, which among many other things involves the experience of emulating others who live wisely and well.

This to me is part of the solution to terrorism – educating in freedom. It is a long-term and worthwhile task. We will always live in diverse cultures, religions and only when we understand our unique contribution to the common good amidst the diversity, are we able to have a happier world. Each one should do their part, be it informing the police upon suspect activity or teaching in a classroom or combating terrorism in the police force and army. We need to respect each one especially when views are contrary from ones’ own. As is in the Kenyan Anthem, we ask God that “may we dwell in unity, peace and liberty, plenty be found within our borders”. May this be through the entire world.

By Obeja Roderick, Director of Operations, World Youth Alliance, Africa.