Monday, 14 July 2014

Terror attacks continue in Kenya coastal counties

Terror attacks continue in Kenya coastal counties

The security situation in coastal Kenya remains beyond state control. In the past two weeks, three further attacks have taken place. Attacks in Lamu and Tana River Counties, which have again been claimed by Somalia’s Al Shabaab militant Islamists, have resulted in the deaths of at least 22 people. The attacks took place on the night of Saturday 5 July.

The Tana River County attack was in the small town of Gamba, where detainees were freed from police cells and nine people were killed. At least a further 13 died at Hindi close to Mpeketoni in Lamu County. Al Shabaab claimed to have freed 40 detainees and to have killed 60 people in the process.

On the night of 11 July the village of Pandanguo was attacked by a gang of up to 60 people. Six police reservist guns were taken. Pandanguo is close to the village of Witu where, on the night of 22 June, another attack saw 11 people brutally killed.

Lamu County is fast turning into a war zone. People are fleeing the insecurity with at least 2,500 people being served by the Kenyan Red Cross in displaced people’s camps and many more relocating under their own resources. Some are reportedly questioning the government’s inept response which has allowed these attacks to continue.

The state’s response remains confused. Military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir continues to contradict President Uhuru Kenyatta by pinning the blame for the attacks on Al Shabaab. Meanwhile, the Hindi and Tana River attacks have been blamed on the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC).

The MRC was founded in 1999 and seeks to establish an independent state based around Mombasa. It strongly denies the allegations. In a July 7 statement released on its Facebook page, they called on people “not to fall into the government’s trap of creating war between communities” and that “whether you like it or not, the Mombasa Republic will take its place amongst nations”. Prior to the Hindi and Gamba attacks the police reported the arrest of four alleged MRC members in Mombasa.

Mombasa itself remains tense. A Russian tourist was shot dead on Sunday 6 July while touring the UNESCO Heritage Site of Fort Jesus. It is unclear if the attack was a simple robbery or a terror attack that was targeting tourists.

On Friday 11 July the controversial businessman, Mohamed Shahid Butt, was assassinated in his car coming back from Mombasa’s Moi International airport. Butt was facing charges for inciting radicalism in the town and last appeared in court in December 2013. His shooting is suspected to have been carried out by state security officials in the Anti-Terror Police Unit. Similarly, the Al Shabaab-supporting cleric, Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, was murdered in April 2014.

The recent months have exposed the new frailties in Kenya. The traditional rivalries of the leadership of the country’s main tribes and their political groupings continue, but it is almost as a sideshow. Intensifying conflicts on the edges of the Kenyan state - in its arid north and its increasingly unstable if not ungovernable coastal region - present an increasingly acute risk to investors. The tourism sector is collapsing in the face of terror.

For more news and expert analysis about East Africa, please see East Africa Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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