The only way to end terrorism is to address its causes and uphold the law

Refugees at the Dadaab camp in northern Kenya. AFP FILE PHOTO
Refugees at the Dadaab camp in northern Kenya. AFP FILE PHOTO

News reports state that work on building the 700-kilometre wall between Kenya and Somalia has started. There has been no public procurement, as required, so we don’t know its cost.

Now remember that suspect procurements have landed many people on the famous anti-corruption list. Will it now be updated to include the public officers who have authorized these works, which started with the digging of ditches in Kiunga, Lamu?

It appears that rule by executive fiat is back, but I can bet there will be no formal document bearing Uhuru Kenyatta’s signature on this deviation from legal procurement.

Instead, it could well be the Director of Immigration to take the flak, as Police IG Boinnet did with the attempt to disobey a court order on the messed-up police recruitment.

And this is what makes it difficult to take Mr. Kenyatta seriously on his new “commitment” to fighting corruption. Being serious about ending an illegality that has become a way of life for many in public “service,” and eroded our value systems, must entail a belief in obeying the law.

But very often, his impatience with laws and checks and balances shines through. It is as though he wants to recreate the Kenya of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi, where their word was law, starting the steady slide into the cesspool of corruption, tribalism, torture, massacres and repression.

Yes we are living in extraordinary times with existential threats to our lives and security. But the actions and statements of this regime seem almost deliberately calculated to accelerate our race to the bottom. It would be funny if it were not so tragic.

Take William Ruto’s statement that “the way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa”. Anyone with a modicum of understanding of world affairs will tell you that it is the reaction to 9/11 in the US that led to its weakening as a global power and also the financial crisis in 2008. Carrying out two wars at a time — with the one in Iraq decidedly illegal under international law — exposed the soft underbelly of the US and can in fact be attributed to the rise of ISIS, Pakistan Taliban, and the mushrooming Al-Qaedas across the world.


God forbid that this regime succeeds in changing Kenya to a post-9/11 US style! We will all be the worse for it. The US became more repressive, started spying on everyone illegally, brought back torture and emboldened radicals and extremists.

At the same time, it loosened restrictions on business that facilitated a severe depression that President Obama was saddled with upon coming into office. That is not where any right-thinking leader should want to take us.

In just two weeks we have had Mr Kenyatta brazenly attempting contempt of court; Mr Ruto stating that the regime will flout the Constitution (for Article 2 makes international human rights law part of our Constitution) in closing down and forcibly evicting refugees from Dadaab; and the order to build a wall on the border with Somalia with no procurement or process, even though it is now clear that the four nasty terrorists responsible for Garissa were all Kenyan.

Yet there is a better way. Ben Emmerson and Heiner Bielefedlt, UN experts on human rights in the context of counter-terrorism, and on freedom of religion, respectively, just this week emphasized that the only way to defeat terrorism is to uphold international human rights law and standards.

They said that the recent attack in Garissa was “a savage act of extreme brutality,” which “shows the urgent need to rethink counter-terrorism responses based only on law enforcement and military force.” They also highlighted the fact that dealing with the manifestations of terrorism alone, without addressing the root causes, is futile.

Sadly, this regime seems interested in only addressing the manifestations of terrorism, and blaming everyone but itself, and the culture it is breeding, for our suffering from terrorism and corruption.