October 06, 2009

Kenya's Increasingly Dangerous Neighbors

Written by Daniel Ooko

Published Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The growing threat of an Al Qaeda offshoot in Somalia is prompting neighboring Kenya to ready itself for war.

[Nairobi, Kenya] In dozens of Kenyan madrasas and schools, a new front is opening. Though no borders are being fought over and though the combatants are unarmed, a government campaign is in conflict with Al-Shabab for control over some of its most important resource – its youth.

“We want our youth to get it clear that Al-Shabab does not have anything to do with Islamic religion and that they should not be involved in the war in Somalia,” said Kenyan parliamentarian Abdikadir Mohammed, the Secretary of a regional parliamentary group.

After Al-Shabab members were found lecturing in Kenyan schools in the North East of the country, fears of radicalism in the region mounted. Muslim youths were being targeted both as possible Al-Shabab recruits and as a means to further Al-Shabab’s influence in the region.

In response, the government set up an initiative involving a multitude of spiritual leaders, politicians and lobbyists, to address the issues of peace, religion and terrorism, alongside an attempt to encourage young Muslims to have a greater understanding of their faith.

But aside from its positive dimensions, the campaign represents something much darker: the growing threat of Al-Shabab, which is slowly over spilling its Somali borders and bringing tensions closer to home.

One of Kenya’s top soldiers and former Air-Force Commander, General Jeremiah Kianga, believes attacking Somali radical Islamist fighters is the best weapon against the jihadist forces spreading fear across Kenya. According to Kenya’s army philosophy, the General said, losing a war is not an option.

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