On 2 April 2015, members of the extremist Islamic group Al-Shabaab stormed into a university in Garissa Kenya, killing about 148 people. Witnesses say that the perpetrators divided the students into groups of Muslims and Christians, after which, Muslims were released, but Christians were shot and killed. It is believed that members of the grouping (Al-Shabaab), are mainly Somali nationals who seek reprisals against the Kenyan government for invading Somalia. Others believe that their sole aim is to inflict terror, and remain relevant as a bona-fide terrorist grouping, that pays allegiance to the global terrorist network—Al Qaeda. Regardless of their motive, suffice it to say that the impact of their most recent attack has serious security, political, social and religious implications for us all.
For one, it poses a serious security threat as their attacks appear to be indiscriminate, targeting anyone and at anytime. The September 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya which was also carried out by Al-Shabaab, was launched against the people of Kenya, tourists and foreign nationals. In the attack, at least 67 people of different nationalities were killed. Some of the causalities were from the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, India, South Africa and China etc. While their attacks are mainly targeted at non-Muslims, Moderate Muslims (who don’t support their agenda) are sometimes caught in the cross-fire of their dastardly acts. This shows that the group is willing to kill just about anyone, young or old, Muslim or Christian, to achieve their objective. Although these acts occurred in Kenya, which may be miles away from where you live, these events could take place anywhere in the world, particularly with the porous nature of modern borders. Today, it was Kenya, but tomorrow it could be somewhere else a lot closer to home. This is why what happened in Kenya, matters to us all.
The Garrissa attacks also pose huge political strain on the capacity, as well as financial and human resources of not just the Kenyan government but of African and Western governments as a whole. With the deadly nature of these terrorist attacks, governments that acknowledge terrorism as a global problem are pledging more financial and human support to States most affected by the attacks of terrorist groupings, in order to effectively combat this problem. In so doing, financial resources that could be otherwise used for improving healthcare, education, and infrastructure in respective African countries are diverted away, and used towards fighting terrorism. This is not to say that the problem of terrorism in Africa should not be addressed, but to highlight the financial strain it places on the coffers of African governments. Also, many men and women, (law-enforcers, security personnel and civilians) have lost their lives in the fight against terrorism on the African continent. The recent assassination of Joan Kagezi, lead prosecutor in the case of ten Al-Shabaab members accused of masterminding the 2010 bombing of civilians watching a soccer World Cup game at a Ugandan fan park, proves this point.
With regard to the social perspective, the Garissa attacks may cement prominent patriarch beliefs that the girl child should not be educated because she risks being killed by indiscriminate acts of terrorism. It is a known fact that education levels are significantly lower for females than for males, mainly due to entrenched patriarchal systems in many parts of Africa. And the recent attack may just serve to strengthen this argument against female education. This is because parents and guardians may discourage their children (particularly girls, as they are generally perceived as unable to protect themselves in the event of danger), from furthering or even obtaining any form of formal education, due to fears of indiscriminate reprisals from terrorist groups. The 2014 kidnapping of over 200 school girls in Chibok, northern Nigeria by the extremist Islamic group—Boko Haram, was an act of reprisal against the Nigerian people for educating the girl child. The group whose slogan is “western education is forbidden” sent a clear message about its stance on education through this act. The unison of these terrorist acts (Garissa and Chibok) may therefore pose a serious problem with regard to the education of the girl child in Africa.
On the religious front, the Garissa attack aims (however succinctly) to start a religious war by putting Christians at loggerheads with Muslims. In many parts of Africa, Christians and Muslims co-exist peacefully but the recent attack is ill-meaning, as it seeks to alter this relationship. This is because, by releasing Muslims and killing Christians, the perpetrators seek to strain relations between the two groups, by engendering feelings of anger from Christians who may feel aggrieved by Muslims, seek to avenge the loss of Christian lives in Garissa or live in fear of Muslims. The attackers seek to make it more about religion and less about terrorism, which is misleading to say the least. The Garissa attack is about terrorism, not just on Christians, but on all religious groupings. This is a simple case of an attack on one, being an attack on all.
A few last words
The aim of Al-Shabaab is to obviously make us all live in constant fear of what they might do next. And because of this real (as opposed to imagined threat), it is important that we stand in solidarity against these dastardly acts of terror. It is also vital that all governments work in solidarity with Africa to ensure that the threat posed by Al- Shabaab, Boko Haram and all other terrorist networks is neutralised, to ensure peace and stability on the African continent.