Two significant developments in Kenya will characterize the country terror threat management landscape in 2019. A Consistent national defiance against violent extremists and ruthless crackdown on grassroots jihadists belonging to the Somali terrorist group Shabaab Mujahideen, by security and intelligence agencies. The republic remained unfazed by the terrorists, and most importantly, came together to brave the attack and downplay its narrow objective. Muslims in Nairobi, angry after the death of several faithfuls in the attack, and perhaps defying the jihadists who’ve orchestrated extreme prejudice against its faithful by non-Muslims, took to the streets.
In defiance against Islamic extremism, and in show of solidarity with the Republic, hundreds of Muslims marched along the streets of the Eastleigh, a cosmopolitan business neighborhood in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The protesters denounced violent extremism and its perpetrators. This event downgraded Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen terrorists’ group grip on socio-religious aspects of the community it purports to represent. In this watershed event, Muslims were seen driving protests much of the day, intent to ouster and burn out Shabaab’s precepts from within the community it uses as a launching pad, perhaps a much needed paradigm shift.
Secondly, the response by government security agencies to the Dusit D2 attack will largely determine the threat levels in the future. The successful counter-operations inside the vast complex besides the minimum casualties will discourage jihadists from adopting similar tactics since the element of invincibility was demystified by security forces. However, like other threat groups, Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen is not invincible. If the Dusit D2 experience is to go by, it is evident that terrorist attacks can be disrupted at any stage and that Kenya is angling towards achieving such deterrent capability, a great milestone in stymieing the persistent terror threat and upending Shabaab’s violent precept.
The protests against the radical Islamist terrorist group by the Muslim community in Kenya reflects the gains made by governments’ population-centric approach against the vice. The greatest impact of Al-Shabaab in Kenya is the damage it inflicted on communal harmony, specifically Muslim-Christian relations. As was evident following attacks in recent past, the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Kenya suffered significantly, escalating to suspicion, prejudice, anger and hatred. This was precipitated by the Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen. Having suffered prejudice Muslims are defending themselves by denouncing violent extremism and radical Islamic ideology, further denting Shabaab terrorist group’s narrow objectives.
Against the backdrop of intermittent threats and attacks, Kenya is likely to expand capacity to dismantle Shabaab Mujahideen in Somalia and tiny cells along its north eastern Prefecture. Kenya is also implementing a target-centric approach of eliminating the enemy leadership and its infrastructure and at the same time continue to build on the population-centric approach of engaging and empowering communities whilst adopting militarized responses to the threat. These developments underscores Kenya’s security intelligence services success in countering violent extremism.