The new counter-terrorism strategies adopted by the Kenya and bilateral allies have paid off as evidenced by a slump in number of attacks by Somalia based Al-Shabaab militants, an international relations scholar said on Sunday.
Peter Kagwanja, the CEO of Nairobi based Pan African think-tank, Africa Policy Institute, said in a commentary published by the Daily Nation that anti-terrorism initiatives that are intelligence driven and sensitive to national cohesion have succeeded considerably in the last two years.
“A shift from military led to a more holistic counter-terrorism approach that focus on winning the hearts and minds of the population has been a success given the dramatic slump in the number of attacks on Kenyan soil by foreign adversaries,” Kagwanja remarked.
The East African nation has experienced a spate of terrorist attacks since its troops entered Somalia in 2011 to flush out Al-Qaida linked terrorist network, Al-Shabaab.
The militants were responsible for a siege in Nairobi’s upscale Westgate shopping mall in September 2013 where they killed 68 civilians.
The year 2014 marked an escalation of Al-Shabaab attacks in the coast and northeastern region where dozens of civilians lost their lives.
In April 2015, the militants again raided Garissa University campus where they killed 147 students.
This horrific attack drew widespread condemnation and forced the Kenyan security personnel to rethink their counter-terrorism strategy.
Kagwanja noted that 2015 marked a new epoch in the fight against terrorism in Kenya and across the eastern African region.
“After Westgate and the attacks that followed, Kenya’s political and security elite were in agreement the country’s fledgling democracy must be protected from terror,” said Kagwanja.
He noted that the horrific massacres from Al-Shabaab terrorists forced the security apparatus to devise a multi-pronged and better coordinated approach to combat the menace.
“Kenya’s security agencies have foiled numerous attacks and saved many lives.Al-Shabaab attacks fell from 72 in 2014 to 28 by the end of 2015,” Kagwanja said.
He added that by August 2016, terrorist attacks inside the Kenyan soil were less than ten while community led deradicalization program has prevented many youth from joining militant groups.
According to a recent report from Kenya’s security agencies, hundreds of youth have been intercepted on their way to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab since 2015.
The report disclosed that in the last one year, 100 Kenyan youth have defected from Al-Shabaab and are gradually being integrated in the community.
Kagwanja noted that heightened vigilance has led to arrest of more than 50 Al-Shabaab fighters while one hundred are on terror watch list.
He stressed that additional resources should be channeled towards community policing, intelligence gathering and sharing alongside youth empowerment to weaken terrorist infrastructure.