Every time I pass by the new Australian embassy on Limuru Road, a lump form in my throat and I get a bit sad. Not because of the building – it is a stunning example of architectural art, and I think that its light-yellow stones fit in perfectly with our landscape. But the reason it moved from its former building on Riverside Drive, as stipulated by many, was the attack on the dusitD2 hotel which is just down the road. Apparently, the security services of both Australia and Kenya estimated that the previous location, so close to the main road, was too easy a target for terrorists
This is a stark reminder that terrorism isn’t only a problem of our North-Eastern province, but of all of Kenya. It can hit its innocent victims anywhere, in the urban or in the rural areas, at night or during the day. Terror is a threat on our society as a whole, and as such, it needs to be fought by society as a whole.
In fact, terrorism seeks to sow the seeds of insecurity into the hearts of every Kenyan, even if its victims are only few. The uncertainty that every single citizen might suffer an attack at any time, and thus changes his daily routine, is the goal of any terrorist organisation all over the world.
We can’t underestimate the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and its peers on the individual as well as on the nation as a whole. If left unchecked, they might regain their strength quickly. In fighting terror, as in every other crime, the good guys need to be at least one step ahead in order to subdue the bad guys.
Thus it is a good sign that the recently presented final report of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) tackles, amongst many other issues, terrorism. While, judging from the media coverage the report received, one might think that all it deals with is politics centred around the political pact between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
It is, in fact, a much more encompassing document that addresses the vast majority of Kenya’s woes. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the report has been compiled after listening, for 18 months, to Kenyans all across the nation, yet it is something worth stating again.
Regarding terrorism, we can find a whole section in the BBI report dedicated to safety and security. This alone shows the intention of the authors of the BBI. They don’t view security as some amorphous state which benefits the powerful and the institutions of the state. Rather they view security as going hand in hand with safety – of every citizen. Hence, they recommend that the Kenyan executive publish every year a national safety and security strategy. This is done in many nations around the world, and usually called the “National Security Strategy”. It lays out all the threats facing a nation – recently, some countries started to add a section for climate change.
The clear advantage is that all ministries can work in tandem to face the many threats. The resulting synergies ease the burden on the budget and increase the chances of success. A clear formulation of the problems Kenya faces in terms of safety and security is also a crucial step towards addressing and solving them.
From reading the report it becomes clear that our collective feeling of safety is not only influenced by the fight against terrorism, but also by the level of domestic violence, the efficiency and professionalism of the police’s work, and the effect of severe weather events. To speak about all these different areas under the same headline is already a small revolution in the public discourse.
But it is more than mere talk. Thanks to the BBI report, we can expect to see drastic change in the way our safety and security is addressed by the Executive. Instead of only dealing with the symptoms, the government will deal with the root causes. The impact on our daily life, and the consequent rise in participation of Kenyans from all backgrounds in the public life, will ensure the accomplishment of the BBI’s main goal: A more just and equal Kenya for all its citizens.
Mr Mugolla is public policy analyst.