Al-Shabaab Terrorist Organization's Attacks on Kenya: Rationale and Dynamics
Since the establishment of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in 2004, it has been the most serious threat for sustaining peace and security in Somalia. So far, it has killed more than 2.000 people in Somalia and East Africa. The terrorist group has not only posed security threats for Somalia but also created threats and challenges for the security of the regions and the Western interests in Africa. On 22 November 2014, Somalia terrorist group Al-Shabaab killed 28 passengers in the bus attack in the town of Mandera near the Kenyan-Somali border, the north-east of Kenya. The Al-Shabaab also killed 67 civilians and wounded 175 persons at the Westgate shopping mall in the city of Westland in Nairobi on 23 September 2013. Al-Shabaab has particularly increased its attacks in Kenya and in East Africa since 2011.
There are internal and external driving forces behind terrorist attacks and the emergence of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia. The first dynamic is the socio-economic developments. Somalia is among the poorest countries in the world and corruption is extremely very high in the country. Due to the long-standing civil war in Somalia, economic and political institutions have failed to provide the basic services to the citizens. Since 1991, hundreds of thousands of Somali have died due to violence and starvation and approximately one million was forced to free the country. Infrastructure in the country is extremely poor. Socio-economic dynamics in the country have paved the way for the birth of the radical terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab terorrist group in the region.
The second dynamics is the failure of the political institutions and system in Somalia. Since 1991, there has not been a central government in the country, facing a deep political, social, and economic instability. It is described as a collapsed state by the international community. Since the collapse of the regime of Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has fallen into anarchy and long-standing conflicts. The dysfunctional political institutions in Somalia have led to the emergence of complicated security problems including terrorist organizations which threaten political and economic stability of the neighbouring countries in East Africa.
The third driving force is that the members of the al-Shabaab believe that their religion is an important force to join the group and the religion of Islam is under the threat; therefore they have a responsibility to protect their religion and establish an Islamic state. However, the main aim of the al-Shabaab is not to create an Islamic state and to spread the religion. The radical terrorist organizations have a strong intention to exploit the religion to recruit the supporters and to strengthen their legitimacy through exploitation of religions and identities of the local population. It can be said that al-Shabaab particularly separated the passengers Muslims and the non-Muslims in the bus attack on 22 November 2014 so as to gain more supporters from the local Muslim population in Somalia and the countries in East Africa. The message was that al-Shabaab was protecting Muslims. Furthermore, The Kenyan Government closed down four mosques in Mombasa in November 2014 and heightened its controls over the Muslim in the country, saying that the Muslims had connection with the al-Shabaab terrorist group.
It important to underline that discriminative policies of the Kenyan Government against the Muslims in country have facilitated the recruitments of the members of the al-Shabaab in Kenya. The fourth force is the legacy of the colonialism in Somalia. The legacy of the colonialism has still affected the political and economic developments in East Africa. The colonial powers Italy and Britain divided Somalia and created many different ethnic groups in the country. Particularly, the ongoing border dispute between the states in this region is the legacy of the colonial powers. Since Somalia has gained its independence, it has pursued an aggressive foreign policy to annex the Somali-inhabited regions in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti under the policy of irredentism. The legacy of colonialism has devastated political and economic developments in Somalia and aggravated relations between the neighbouring countries in East Africa.
The last underlying factor is the foreign intervention of Somalia. The international community has paid a great deal of attention of the terrorist activities of the Al-Shabaab after it attacked the civilians at a Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013, killing 67 persons and injuring the hundreds. Al-Shabaab claimed that the group especially targeted the civilians in Kenya due to the fact that Kenya intervened militarily in the southern Somalia in October 2011 and also Kenya has the four thousand Kenyan soldiers in Somalia working within the framework of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). After this attack, al-Shabaab became more apparent and gained more recognition in East Africa and in the world. Al-Sabaab did its first attacks outside of Somalia in Uganda in July 2010, killing more than 70 persons. It is important to note that Uganda was the first country sending its troops and has maintained the largest military troops at the AMISOM since July 2013. Its first attack on Uganda also showed that the group has developed a more global vision to gain support and legitimacy. Poverty, conflict and war, underdevelopment, corruption have marginalized the society and contributed to the reinforcement of al-Shabaab in East Africa. Lastly, the political and military intervention of Kenya in security in Somalia will strongly continue to provocate the al-Shabaab terrorist group to carry out massive terrorist attacks on Kenya.