Community ties key to winning war on terror, says Christian Turner

Kenya should invest more in community engagements to win war on extremism, British High Commissioner to Nairobi Christian Turner has said.

Dr Turner believes involving communities will be “critical part” in the war against terrorism.

“This war will not be won militarily. An effective response to terrorism can’t just focus on hardware.  It also needs to address the underlying causes of what leads some individuals to become radicalised and turn to violence,” Dr Turner told a counter-terrorism meeting in Nairobi on Thursday.

BORROW A LEAF

“Military pressure, intelligence co-operation, a more effective border control and regional collaboration on refugees matters (are fine).  But for success, a community-based approach to preventing terrorism will be vital.”

He urged Kenya to borrow a leaf from the way the UK dealt with the Irish Republican Army’s bombings, where authorities invested in communities for crucial information on terrorists.

“The UK experience, from the IRA (Irish Republican Army) bombings during the Northern Ireland Troubles to the London tube bombings of 2005, is that winning the trust of communities is a critical component of the fight against terror,” he said.

FOLLOW THE LAW

He urged Kenyan authorities to stick to the Constitution in their counter-terrorism battle.

“Trust lies at the heart of any effective community-based strategy to prevent terrorism. Building public trust in the police and security services is vital, and tactics which violate the rights of those communities risk fuelling alienation, resentment, and furthering the extremists’ cause,” he said.

The event hosted by the British High Commission was meant to engage government officials, counter-terrorism experts, communication experts and diplomats on how to jointly fight terrorism.

The meeting was supposed to be a curtain-raiser for a counter-terrorism conference to be hosted by Kenya in June this year.

SERIES OF ATTACKS

The decision to organise the conference was reached following a series of terror attacks on Kenya by Somali militant group Al-Shabaab.

On April 2, the terrorists attacked Garissa University College, killing 148 people.

Although the Kenya Defence Forces have been in Somalia since October 2011 pursuing Al-Shabaab, the group has carried out over 130 attacks on Kenyan soil.

Counter-terrorism experts say the group may be recruiting more Kenyans by appealing to their marginalisation and offering big money to poor youth.

COMMUNICATION

Last week, Interior Principal Secretary Monicah Juma challenged the “fallacy” of marginalisation, but conceded there needs to be a better way of communicating anti-terror messages.

“This conflation between marginalisation and radicalisation needs to be delinked,” she argued at a counter-terrorism conference organised by the University of Nairobi.

“We need to improve on way of communicating anti-terror messages. If anything, the terrorists are way ahead of us in communications”.

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