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Posts Tagged ‘al shabab’

The news that a gang of Somali gunmen in a fast speed boat had kidnapped a disabled Frenchwoman from her home in Lamu, off the Kenyan coast, has sent shock waves across the country. This is more so because it follows on a few weeks after the kidnap of a british woman from a posh, but isolated, beach hotel further up the coast. In that incident the victim’s husband was killed in the attack.

This has been a long time coming and the security apparatus should have been better prepared. the war in Somalia continues unabated and it has been left to primarily Uganda and to a lesser extent Burundi, to provide troops for AMISOM. They have succeeded in driving Al Shabab out of Mogadishu, for now, but also at great human cost.

The Kenyan government has had a rather Stand offish approach to the drama across the Somali border, even though reports and evidence show that young men are being recruited in Mombasa into terrorist ranks and shipped there for training.

The hands off approach has been tested over the previous months as hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured over the border, swamping already the largest refugee camp in the world, dadab. The porous borders had been unable to keep them out of the country, so the police has been deployed to try and at least keep thmem from getting to Nairobi, without much success as any resident will point out. The security implications are too ominous to ignore.

Piracy has raged on the high seas affecting seafarers from all over the world and Kenya too. This has caused the cost of shipping to sky rocket as the insurance premiums have headed north to keep up with number of ships being jacked and the increasing cost of maritime security.

With massive deployment of naval convoys around the Indian ocean it has been getting harder for the pirates to grab their quarry for ransom, a lucrative enterprise that they have grown accustomed to. Looking south Lamu must look like a candy store.

Now the north coast of Kenya is an interesting place, particularly Lamu. It’s an ancient stone town bathed in incredible history and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. There is only one car allowed on the island and it belongs to the district commissioner. transport is essential by donkey cart.

The charming historic town that rivals Zanzibar has drawn the rich, the powerful and the aristocracy from across Europe who have bought many of the old houses, restored them and converted them into mansions and luxury hotels. this development has been steady and unstoppable to the extent that the real-estate prices in Lamu are some of the highest in Africa. The regret is that the local people can no longer afford to buy land or a house in the area. Resentment simmers. For other kenyans Lamu is an unaffordable holiday destination because the cost of flights are inflated, the road up from malindi is in a bad state and the hotels are priced for the deep in pocket.

North of Lamu are several ‘Robinson crusoe’ like luxury hotels that seem to be the rage right now. Eco friendly and close to nature, clients pay top dollar to sleep under the stars or without doors and windows, close to the Indian ocean surf. Far from the maddening crowd they are easy pickings for Somali insurgents looking for a ransom payday.

The cost to the Kenyan economy is likely to be huge. Tourism is a major contributor to the economy and nothing turns down the tourism arrival switch like insecurity. It does’t matter that we are talking about the northern Kenyan coast, not malindi, not Mombasa, not the Maasai Mara. Western tourists have no patience to make those types of distinctions, Africa is Africa, period.

With the Kenyan shilling taking a beating from the world’s major currencies a drop in tourism earnings would be a catastrophe. So it is not surprising that the minister of tourism, najib balala, has been out beating his hollow drum. It will boil down to thepolice, the army and the navy to seal the border and stop these two incidents from becoming a regular fishing expedetion because that would shut down beach tourism for good.

The ominous spectre of Kenyan military involvement in Somalia grows more likely everyday.

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i was shocked and saddened to hear about the bomb blasts in kampala. That was just after watching the FIFA world cup final on tv. The news first broke on sky television. And my first instinct was to ask where my rugby paying nephew was……fortunately he was not present at the rugby club.

Al shabab is already claiming responsibility, gleefully proclaiming retribution on an ‘infidel’ population. They have been issuing ominous warnings for many months because Uganda is a big contributor to the AU peace keeping forces in Mogadishu. And indications are that they are responsible for the reprehensible acts of terror: bombing cheering crowds at the Kyadondo Rugby Club, Lugogo and a popular Ethiopian restaurant in kabalagala.

It is important to note that a year ago when the threats were first made by Al Shaba the somali community in Uganda organised their own registration excercise and started issuing identity cards to its members!

How is it that a country that spends an insane amount of money an elaborate security apparatus could have missed the boat. Its true that terrorists are hard to stop, especially if they have no fear of dying but lets look at a few cold facts:
1. Uganda has no identity card system, thus we really cannot say who is who. All you have to do is create your own   employment card and you are good to go.
2. With a fist full of dollars one can buy a ugandan passport, even a diplomatic one. Many a crook has been detained at an airport somewhere claiming diplomatic immunity.
3. Uganda’s immigration environment is the most liberal on the planet, to the point of being laissez faire. The borders are porous and watching immigration officers at work makes one wonder…………
4. The security agents all seem to come from one end of the country and thus we can only ask  if blood is thicker than competence.
5. And whats worse is that the whole security apparatus seems more focused on opposition politicians and their activities than anything else.

With a draconian phone tapping law making its way through parliament ( the phones are still being tapped any way), a a security budget bursting at the seems and a joint anti terrorism force harrasing non terror ‘suspects’, we need to ask: has Big Brother lost the plot.

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