Kenyan authorities must have heaved a sigh of relief after the siege at the largest shopping mall in Nairobi came to an end, with all the hostages held by Al Shabaab militants freed. The nation is still in shock, trying to understand what has happened. The world too had its eyes fixed on the dramatic scenes in Nairobi. What adds to the severity of the terrorist attack and one of the reasons for the mounting international interest is the fact that not all victims are Kenyans. Among the 62 dead are British, Canadian, American, Chinese, French, Ghanaian, Indian, Dutch, Peruvian, South African and South Korean citizens. More than 170 have been injured and the death toll is likely to go up.
With the hostage crisis now over, the Kenyan government must start straightaway a comprehensive probe into the attack and inform the world what had happened. As David Ohito, vice-chair of the Kenya Editors Guild, said, Kenyans “really need proper investigations. Kenya has been bungling all investigations it has handled in the past. We need to expose the gaps that allowed these attackers to run into the mall, stay there for days, making it very difficult for our security forces to overcome. There will be begging questions and we will be waiting for answers from the authorities.”
Also, the world and the African Union need to formulate an effective strategy to detoxify Al Shabaab. Perhaps the African Union has underestimated Shabaab’s ability to strike outside Somalia, especially since the militant group’s influence was seen as waning in Somalia. It has lost both territory and influence in Somalia, and like all terrorist groups trying to regain power through the launch of deadly strikes, Al Shabaab is trying the same.
Kenya needs to heighten security to avoid a repetition of the attack, since its troops continue to participate in the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which Al Shabaab is retaliating against. The fear was that the Somalia’s instability would spill over its borders and go down the coast threatening Mombasa, East Africa’s most important port and Kenya’s vital tourist industry. That fear has now become a reality. Kenyan leader Kenyatta made an appeal to the international community that they should not abandon Kenya and tourists should not postpone their visits. But he will have to do more than issue appeals.
The fact that a large number of non-Kenyans has died in the attack shows that defeating Al Shabaab is a global responsibility and it’s not Somalia and its neighbours who will be caught in the war. The global agencies, like the United Nations, must take a greater role, and offer every help to the African Union and secular forces in Somalia•