Push for UN listing of Al-Shabaab
The January 15 terrorist attack on the Dusit complex in Nairobi, in which 21 people were killed and scores of others injured, necessitates a review of counter-terrorism measures.
It exposes the dynamism of terrorism and instigates the need for increased cooperation to effectively and comprehensively battle terror elements in our midst.
Kenya should capitalise on the global support following the attack to engage in diplomatic mobilisation for the listing of Al-Shabaab by the United Nations.
While the African Union (AU), UN and some member states have made concerted efforts in fighting Al-Shabaab, the group is yet to be designated as a terrorist outfit or an affiliate of the two major global terrorist organisations, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (Isis).
That means that efforts such as the AU Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troops helping the Somalia National Army (SNA) in fighting the militants, with Kenya among the troop-contributing countries, are insufficient.
Conspicuously, the Dusit attack, among many others in Somalia and Kenya, meet the UN’s threshold for listing: “Participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of al-Qaeda, ISIL or affiliates.”
Al-Shabaab pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2010, which was formally recognised in 2012.
The two have since had a symbiotic relationship with the frequency and brutality of Al-Shabaab attacks in the region intensifying.
In its routine post-attack propaganda, Al-Shabaab said Dusit was partly in response to the shifting of the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by Washington and cited foreigners as its primary targets.
Contrary to its largely traditional nationalist focus on ‘liberating’ Somalia, the justification demonstrates the increasing globalist pro-al-Qaeda jihad agenda and affirms the link between the two groups. Al-Qaeda even celebrated the Dusit attack.
The UN has acknowledged terrorism as a global threat and listed al-Qaeda and Isis and their affiliates as such.
But listing of Al-Shabaab as an affiliate of al-Qaeda has always attracted objections from otherwise unexpected war on terror campaigners among UN member states.
Attempts at listing got the backing of regional countries — such as Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi — but failed due to objections by the US and the United Kingdom.
The UK sought to know whether having Al-Shabaab in the UN Resolution 1267 list would see Kenya pursue its delisting from the Somalia-Eritrea sanctions regime.
The US said the Somalia-Eritrea and the 1267 regimes differed in their treatment of humanitarian aid to terrorist-controlled territories.
The American and British ambassadors in Kenya should be put to task and answer the hard questions: Why the double standards on the so-called war on terror; mobilising global backing yet objecting when initiated by another country?
Why should they claim to be at the forefront in the war yet object to designation of a key terrorist outfit as one?
Are the objections only considerate of their national foreign policy interests at the expense of regional security?
Why should Kenya bear the ultimate price through attacks for being their ally yet they object to the listing of a common enemy?
The US has supported co-listing in other Jihad theatres — such as Syria, Yemen and Libya — and there have been no technical concerns since both sanction regimes have complementary mandates.
Under the Somalia-Eritrea regime, the UN has focused on an arms embargo and a ban on charcoal sales by Al-Shabaab.
Consequently, the sanctions are insufficient to deal comprehensively with the regional threat posed by Al-Shabaab.
The listing of Al-Shabaab would have many benefits. First, it would end financing of the militants, whether voluntary or forced.
Secondly, the increased military pressure could rout the militants from their central and southern Somalia strongholds.
Thirdly, the SNA, Amisom and other entities would be better equipped to fight the outfit.
Fourthly, the listing would catch the eye of regional and global counter-terrorism actors, sparking a campaign for global action against Al-Shabaab.
Fifthly, it would prohibit transfer of arms and related material to the group and prevent its militants, sympathisers and financiers from entering or transiting through territories of member states.
Sixthly, provision of technical assistance or military training to Al-Shabaab would be outlawed.
Ultimately, the listing of the Al-Shabaab will weaken the group on all fronts and reduce its malignancy significantly.
Dr Mutegi is an education management and public policy expert and teaches at Kenyatta University. [email protected]
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