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Latest attack may deal new blow to Kenya’s global terror ranking

Dusit hotel attack

Kenya’s hope of improving its ranking on the global terrorism index (GTI) may have been dealt a blow after last Tuesday’s attack on Dusit business complex that claimed 21 lives.

According to the Global Terrorism Index by the Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace, a report that measures the impact of terrorism, Kenya took a nosedive from the 22nd most exposed country in 2017 to the 19th most exposed in 2018. Even then, countries in the Middle East still top the ranking as the prevalence of such attacks is higher relative to other parts of the world.

The GTI ranks 163 countries based on four weighted indicators during a given year. The four factors counted in each country’s yearly score are; total number of terrorist incidents with a weight of one; the total number of fatalities caused by terrorists with a weight of three; the total number of injuries caused by terrorists given a weight of 0.5; and a measure of the total property damage from terrorist incidents given a weight of zero to three depending on severity.

Kenya’s high exposure to terrorism has been blamed on its involvement and close proximity to Somalia, which has been lawless since 1991 when president Mohamed Siad Barre was deposed. The lawlessness bred a perfect situation for extremist or terrorist elements to thrive, including Al-Shabaab.

Somalia is ranked sixth in the terrorism index.

In October, 2011, Kenya defence forces moved into Somalia to pursue Al-Shabaab after a series of attacks by the terror outfit on Kenyan soil.

Angered by the move, the jihadist group has ever since increased its attacks on Kenya, staging invasions that have led to deaths of innocent lives such the 2016 University of Garissa attack that led to the death of 147 students, Westgate raid that claimed close to 70 lives and the El Addde attack that took the lives of 200 Kenyan soldiers.

“Conflict remains the primary driver of terrorism in most countries throughout the world,” said the report.

The Kenyan government under African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) has however remained adamant on its stand to stay in Somalia until peace is restored in the horn of Africa.

Under the Amisom command, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti provide protection to Somalia’s federal institutions as they carry out their functions, among them securing the airports and seaports. But Kenya seems to be taking most of the heat coming from the operation with very few attacks being carried out on the partner countries.

Terrorism on Kenyan soil goes back to 1975 when three separate explosions hit Starlight Nightclub, Information bureau and OTC bus station in Nairobi within a timespan of three months, killing at least 27 people and leaving 90 others injured.

Five years later, the Norfolk Hotel was hit killing 20 people and injuring 87 others. In 1998 a bomb went off at the American embassy killing over 210 people. Attacks have been frequent since then, with the recent one happening at 14 Riverside drive in Nairobi. From blunders made in the past such as the security personnel and tactics confusion at the Westgate to government officials prioritising themselves over security personnel in air transportation to the scene of the Garissa university attack, massive progress has been made in counter- terrorism measures.

Elite teams such as from the Recce and the military, among others, were responsible for saving over 700 lives at the Dusit complex. Police and government coordination of events were also spot- on in controlling the situation. However as curative measures seem to be improving, there is still more work to be done on the preventive part.

Having acknowledged the widespread impact of terrorism, the report estimates that the attacks cost the world up to Sh5.2 trillion ($52 billion) annually. After the Westgate attack in 2013, Kenya saw its earnings from tourism dip to Sh87 billion in 2014 from Sh94 billion in 2013.

But it is notable that the international community has expressed goodwill to Kenya by not issuing travel advisories to their citizens who plan to visit the country, a move that would have hurt tourism this year.

The sector earned the country Sh157 billion last year, more than what tea is thought to have brought, an indicator of its significant position in the Kenyan economy.