Kenya-US cooperation in anti-terrorism war timely

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya-US tie. Photo/Courtesy

Edward Mwachinga 

Since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya has suffered numerous terrorist attacks, leaving hundreds dead, thousands maimed and property damaged.

In the last two decades, terrorism has emerged as perhaps the single biggest threat to Kenya’s security and economic stability.  

As a survivor of one of a terror attack, I have deeply reflected on the war on terrorism particularly how Kenya can boost her capability to fight and defeat this enemy.

The news of the signing, last month, of a historic counter-terrorism partnership between Kenya and the United States couldn’t be more timely.

The deal will see the creation of a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTFF), the first of its kind involving Americans to be established outside of the US.   

The joint taskforce, spearheaded by the Kenyan government in collaboration with US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) will be based in Nairobi. It will significantly boost Kenya’s ability to combat terrorism. 

According to the US Embassy in Kenya, the overall objective of the JTTF is to promote terrorism investigations and prosecution, enhance the country’s ability to respond to terror crises as well as boost border security. 

To achieve this, an initial team of 12 Kenyan counter-terrorism experts will undergo specialised training at the FBI Academy in the US. 

As a multi-agency force, JTTF will also focus on managing counter-terrorism intelligence, which is crucial to building stronger surveillance and deterrence capacity. 

The setting up of the JTTF comes in the wake of the Global Terrorism Index 2019 which ranked Kenya number 21 among countries most impacted by terrorism.

This is evident in key sectors of the economy such as tourism, which have suffered the disruptive effects of terrorism resulting in loss of jobs. 

Terrorists have also triggered insecurity in several parts of the country, notably Northeastern Kenya, where al-Shabaab is blamed for a spate of attacks on schools, shopping, infrastructure, quarries and security installations leading to many fatalities.

In the coastal region, the islamists staged an attack on a military base on Manda Island in January, killing three American military personnel and contractors.  

Although through military intervention has hit the al-Shabaab hard, the group remains a threat.

There is, therefore, value in concerted effort by Kenya and her international partners in the war in terrorism in combating terror groups.

More importantly, we need to move as a country from a reactive to proactive approach to counter-terrorism.

This is crucial in identifying, disrupting and defeating terrorist elements and their criminal networks. 

The JTTF, therefore, heralds a new phase in Kenya’s war on terrorism by providing a platform for collaboration with a strong ally while building local capacity to tackle the threat posed by global terror networks.  

Kenya will also benefit immensely by strengthening local capacity in investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases under the JTTF framework.

This is a vital cog in the delivery of justice to victims of terrorism and their families.

Inadequate capacity to handle terrorism cases has always been cited as a missing link in the justice system, with suspects walking scot-free due to bungled investigations and prosecutions. 

In a nutshell, the JTTF lends considerable impetus to Kenya’s quest to eventually eliminate terrorism as a security and economic threat.

Neutralising the enemy before it strikes is the ultimate weapon in this war.  —The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected] 

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