Kenya Must Not Collapse By Sola Ademiluyi
The mainstay of the Kenyan economy is tourism and she has built a billion dollar economy around it. The world virtually flocks there to see the wildlife, safari, game and other numerous attractions. It was in the former mau mau country that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge proposed to Kate Middleton.
In 1998, there was an attack on the American Embassy there which left scores of people dead. The dreaded Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the embassy bombing. The deadly post electoral 2007 riots which left more than a thousand people dead with many injured and properties burnt had an adverse effect on the tourism industry but it bounced back as a result of the resilience of the leaders who were hell bent on averting a major economic crisis.
On September 21, tragedy struck at the Westgate mall owned by some Israelis as a Somali militant group, Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on the mall which left over 60 people including the nephew of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his fiancée dead. Many others were injured and the number of both the injured and dead keeps rising by the day. There are insinuations that the National Intelligence Service alerted the government of the attacks. If true, why didn’t the government take any concerted steps to prevent it? The mall holds a pride of place in Nairobi as it is a hub where both the expatriates and citizens congregate to have fun. It is a one stop spot which satisfies diverse needs. While it cannot be compared to the strategic importance of the World Trade Towers in New York, the fact that the economy is tourism dependent makes it an important part in the life of Kenyans.
The government of Uhuru Kenyatta has done a huge favour in that the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have not yet officially declared the country as a no go area. The government has the responsibility to quickly earn the trust of both the locals and foreigners alike so that it does not collapse. If she is declared a danger zone, the effect on the economy would be calamitous as means of livelihoods of hundreds of thousands would be lost overnight and the government cannot afford to risk that in the fact of a global economic meltdown.
The al-Shabaab has tried for long to rule Somalia and it is natural that as neighbours to Kenya, they would do all they can to strike since that would sabotage the economy of the latter. To show they were confident of their attacking success, some of their men numbering about 15 came well armed and started shooting. Some Muslims were saved by proving they were one. They had the nerves to take their time to perpetrate the dastardly act. Counter terrorism experts have wondered why they didn’t simply throw a bomb to aver the risk of being apprehended!
It is clear that Kenya has a novel terrorism challenge. How equipped are they to tackle it? The cops are poorly paid – about $200 a month and are very corrupt as expected. There is the dearth of a 911 service and most of them do not even have cars to make the service efficient. If they had been better armed, the death toll may not have been as high as it is.
The nationalistic spirit is currently at its zenith as some public spirited nationals bravely donated blood to save their wounded brothers and sisters. Kenyatta has the duty to maintain this tempo more especially as he is an emotional victim. More attention has to be paid to security as it has a direct impact on the economy. The African Union must rally round to save her from another round of attack. The intervention in Darfur should be extended here; it shouldn’t degenerate to a full blown carnage before aid comes. Prevention is better than cure goes the old cliché. We have the onerous duty to be our brother’s keeper in this trying time of the tourism giant. It is sad that one of African leading literary lights, Ghanaian Professor Kofi Awoonor met his untimely death in the hands of this blood thirsty terrorists who have no regard for the sanctity of human life. The reality of terrorists in the continent is real and Africa has to prove that she can tackle security challenges without necessarily making it a global affair.
Kenyatta must emulate George Bush Jr who did a yeoman’s job of rallying round Americans and restoring confidence in them in the wake of the September 11 2001 terrorists attack. He has the opportunity to make history by providing uncommon leadership in this ugly hour. He must live up to his name which means freedom by ensuring that the economic mainstay of the country is not jeopardised and that her sovereignty is not threatened by heartless terrorists.
Over to you Uhuru!
Sola is @ademiluyitony on Twitter.