Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A very revealing interview

Q. Is Kenya winning or losing the war against al Shabaab, in your view?
A. We're winning the war in Kenya. We're winning the war in Kenya because we've deployed a lot of resources, we've done a lot of capacity-building, we have trained personnel in the security sector, we have bought a lot of equipment including surveillance equipment. We're better co-ordinated. So we're better at preventing attacks than we ever were. Al Jazeera, UpFront
Mehdi Hassan is not a cuddly interviewer; he reminds me a bit of Tim Sebastian when he hosted BBC Hardtalk. He is relentless and when one of his interviewees is unable to respond with finesse, he can be quite snarky. The above exchange is between Mr Hassan and Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Amina Mohamed. It was a train wreck for the Cabinet Secretary, who has been nominated by the government she serves to be the next president of the African Union Commission.

It isn't a simple question but the answer is revealing. Rather than highlight how Kenyans are safer because of Kenya's antiterrorism efforts, the Cabinet Secretary focussed on what the Government had done to improve its antiterror capability, completely ignoring the fact (highlighted by Mr Hassan) that in the five years since Operation: Linda Nchi, Kenya had suffered nine times more terrorist attacks than before.

This isn't as surprising as it sounds. The nabobs of Kenya have always led a charmed life, protected by the best elements of the Kenyan securocracy. In the late 1980s, as violent crime and burglary became commonplace, Kenyans also fell prey to the predation of the securocracy, a predation that had been nurtured by almost two decades of Special Branch midnight knocks. Nowadays, the pretense that the securocracy exists for the safety of the people and the security of the nation has been jettisoned and it is now almost openly acknowledged that the securocracy exists for the sole purpose of keeping our modern-day maharajahs in power.

Al Shabaab and, before it, al Qaeda are not really interested in deposing the government of the day or even fomenting fullscale insurrection among disaffected Kenyans; they are only interested in punishing the government for interfering in their plans and by supporting the United States in its Global War on Terror. The United States government is interested in the surveillance of terror networks; it has already come to the sad conclusion that it cannot stop the likes of al Qaeda, al Shabaab or the Islamic State. So it has enlisted frontline states, like Kenya, in its scheme to place under surveillance the whole world, and our nabobs, keen to get their grubby hands on US greenbacks, have gone along like the tame pets they have always proven to be.

So it comes as no surprise that the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs will not think of success from the perspective of the safety of the people or the security of the nation, but from things that revolve, intimately so, around security tenders. Even if Mr Hassan had treated Ms Mohammed with kid gloves, it is almost certain that the interview would still have revealed the utter heartlessness that drives the Kenya security establishment.

No comments: