Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta absolved al-Shabab from the Mpeketoni attack where at least sixty people died.
Al-Shabaab – the Somali Islamist fighter group – has claimed responsibility.
The President says investigations show that this is the work of a local political network.
“The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This, therefore, was not an Al Shabab terrorist attack,” said Kenyatta.
So, who is fooling who?
It’s true that in Mpeketoni there are unresolved historical political and ethnic grievances.
Local Somalis and Oromos claim the area as their ancestral home.
Kenya’s first President, Jomo Kenyatta, settled ethnic Kikuyus on the land in a post-independence land settlement scheme.
President Kenyatta’s statement seems to suggest that some politicians are exploiting the simmering ethnic tension there to settle political scores.
Many of those who died in the attack came from the President’s Kikuyu community.
While Kenyatta fell short of naming the politicians behind the attack, rhetoric from his ruling coalition member and supporters and the Interior cabinet secretary Joseph Ole Lenku is that the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is to blamed for inciting the public and stoking ethnic tension around the country.
The coalition has been holding charged political rallies – calling for a national dialogue- saying that the country is on the brink of a crisis. CORD critics believe Odinga and group are creating the crisis.
The political rallies will culminate to a mega one on July 7 – a symbolic day. Back in 1990, twenty two Kenyans were killed during street protests agitating for the end of a single party rule by an authoritarian regime.
The current government feels that this sudden opposition burst is skewed towards heightening political temperatures, driving Kenya into a campaign mode, seventeen months since last general elections and that the aim is to destabilize the country.
The opposition coalition has rubbished this argument. Raila Odinga told me that the government is just trying to “pass the buck and look for a scapegoat to avoid embarrassment – that yet again it has been caught flat footed by al-Shabab.
Maybe the motive is political as the official statement reads.
But we cannot ignore the fact that al-Shabab has claimed responsibility – and judging by its history the group hardly ever claims what it has not done.
Some analysts counter that argument: One, Mutahi Ngunyi a veteran political affairs expert told me the group could be taking advantage and riding on the “glory” of Mpeketoni because it’s a big attack – one that has given them the visibility and “credibility” as dangerous foe.
That the group is being given way too much prominence than deserved.
Be that as it may – many Kenyan’s, at least those I talked to don’t really care about t who did what, whose blaming who, who is admitting to what.
Here’s what they care about.
Since 2011 when Kenya sent its troops to Somalia to fight off al-Shabab – there have been at least 66 documented attacks and almost 300 people have died across the country from these attacks.
The government seems unable or overwhelmed to deal with the security situation.
Beyond the politics, the blame game, the shenanigans – Kenyans continue to live in fear – nowhere seems safe anymore.
It’s up to the president and his government to tackle insecurity and tame the fear across the nation by moving from being reactionary to being proactive in its counter-terrorism strategy.