Samson solution to terrorism

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Samson solution to terrorism
By Paul Nyongesa

Terrorists do not seem to have boundaries of what is sacred and what is not. For them, it is evident that all is fair game as long as they live to fight another day. Is there a price too high in the fight against terrorism? Do some interventions have the potential of a Pyrrhic victory?

Take the case of Eastern Africa’s Al Shabaab militants who have turned the dense Boni Forest at the Kenya-Somali coastal border into their hideout. To add insult to injury, the Al Qaeda-linked militants have also converted the pristine forest into the center of their operations. This has jolted the Kenya government armed forces into considering the Samson-like option: bomb the forest altogether to flush out the militants. Nothing is off the table for the Kenya government in Operation Linda Nchi.

The plan to bomb the forest brings to mind the important biblical character of Samson as depicted in the Bible and later by a vast array of films, artwork and literature. The ancient story of Israelites is well-captured in the Book of Judges where Samson was one of the last leaders who ‘judged’ Israel. Samson made the Philistine temple to collapse upon himself and all his enemies once he was cornered after losing the immense strength that had allowed him to perform glorious feats such as the killing a lion with his bare hands and slaying an entire army with only the jawbone of a donkey.

But conservation groups in the pre-historic coastal town of Lamu have raised alarm that the bombing of the forest will not only destroy ancient flora and fauna, but will also render the local Aweer communities landless. They have pleaded with the government to use other means of fighting the terrorists apart from bombing the forest.

Boni Forest, which borders Lamu, Tana River and Garissa counties, has been an Al-Shabaab hideout for a long time, through which the outlaws launch their attacks. Reports have indicated that the militants have frustrated the Kenya Defence Forces on Operation Linda Boni by mounting Improvised Explosive Devices within the forest. It’s clear that the operation, which was launched by the late Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery on September 15, 2015, has yet to achieve definitive success.

While the military defeat of Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia may be considered a good thing, such a victory may be damaging to Kenya’s ability to make a political settlement with its Somali and wider Muslim communities at home.

Kenya’s invasion of southern Somalia, which began in October 2011, has turned into an occupation of attrition – while revenge from the invasion has consolidated in a series of deadly Al-Shabaab attacks within Kenya.

On October 16, 2011, Kenya’s armed forces invaded southern Somalia in the midst of a severe local famine and a regional drought. Their purpose was to capture the port city of Kismayo and to crush the Al-Shabaab Islamist militia.

The first aim was achieved though the success rings hollow victory bearing in mind the reality of Al-Shabaab reaction with gun, bomb, and grenade attacks against targets in Nairobi, Garissa and other Kenya towns.

The resilience of Al-Shabaab presents the key challenge: unless the Kenyan state radically changes its approach, this could prove to be a war that Kenya did not want, mostly to be fought on Kenyan soil. Worst of all, the enticing Samson solution of bombing the Boni forest is one wrought with unforeseen impacts.

About Paul Nyongesa

Paul Udoto Nyongesa, Kenya Paul has 23 years of experience as a high school teacher, journalist and communication expert. He is a passionate champion for environmental conservation and has written extensively on wildlife and tourism in various publications and served as contributing editor with Msafiri (The Traveller), national airline carrier Kenya Airways inflight magazine since 2011. He has been instrumental in coordinating publicity for high-level ivory burning events in Kenya in 2011, 2014 and 2016. Paul has also been an associate consultant with Impact Africa, a Nairobi-based strategic communications firm, and for the last four years served as a media liaison with the Rhino Charge, an annual charitable off-road motor competition which raises funds for conservation. He is away on sabbatical leave from the Kenya Wildlife Service Communications Manager where he oversees relations between the government wildlife agency and various stakeholders. Paul is a social media enthusiast who holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Moi University, a postgraduate diploma in mass communication and a master’s degree in communication studies, both from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He also holds a certificate in strategic leadership from the Kenya School of Government. He is currently a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow (a Fulbright exchange activity sponsored by the US State Department) based at the Arizona State University’s Cronkite School for Journalism and Mass Communication for one year. During Humphrey year, Paul plans to focus on the use of new digital communication tools, social media, media literacy, international media relations, crisis communication and leadership. He plans to devote the opportunity to strengthening his leadership and public mobilization skills.

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