Your Excellency President Obasanjo, Convener of the Tana High Level Panel,
Your Excellency, Haile Mariam Desalegne, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,
Excellencies Head of State and Government here present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to attend, for the first time, the Tana High level Forum on Security in Africa, and wish on the onset to express my heartfelt gratitude to His Excellency Prime Minister Desalegne for the very warm welcome accorded me and my delegation since our arrival in this sisterly nation. I commend the conveners of this forum for providing a space for African leaders from across the societal spectrum to come together regularly and reflect, together, on current issues of mutual concern.
The theme of the 2015 Tana High Level Security Forum on ‘Secularism and Politicized Faith’ is apt for this session of our meeting. Globally we are witness to a worrying trend of multiplication and intensification of conflicts between trans-national groups vis-à-vis Nation-States, and civil wars that are being prosecuted against the backdrop of growing politicization of religion. From a continent of accommodation of faiths, we have come to an age that threatens the choice of faith.
The most threatening of this is linked closely and feeds into the threat of terrorism. The aspiration of the Global Jihadist Movement to create an Islamic Caliphate is feeding into an unprecedented and sophisticated ideology driven by extremist violence. From ISIL in Iraq/Syria, Al-Qaeda and its global franchises, the extremist groups in the Sahel, Boko Haram in West Africa to Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Horn of Africa, we have seen a brazen attempt to deny diversity of faiths.
By pursuing the creation of their desired Islamic Caliphates in their regions, these groups threaten the stability of most secular countries within the hotspots. Most of the extremist groups with their radical brand of Political Islam are also trying to take advantage of the void left by the Arab Spring that wasn’t definitive in most countries in the Middle East.
In our Horn of Africa region, the prolonged crisis and conflict situation in Somalia resulting from the collapse of the state of Somalia in 1991, has progressively mutated into a myriad of threats, the most virulent of this is violent extremism, meted firstly on the Somali population, but also neighbouring states, the region and the international community.
International efforts to pacify and stabilize Somalia have achieved marked success in dismantling and disrupting Al-Shabaab’s financial and military networks, however, the threat still remains – particularly in its morphing form of radicalization of the youth. On the eve of Easter, Kenya experienced the full impact of this as our children were attacked at the Garissa University College. By the time the security forces ended the siege, 147 of our people, mainly students were murdered.
Significantly, upon being taken hostage by the terrorists, the university students were separated on the basis of religion, and those that did not profess the Islamic faith killed in cold blood. Clearly the broader objective of this is to trigger societal fracture and inter-religious conflict.
The indoctrination of the youths into violent extremism is taking place in educational institutions, mosques, the social media and prisons. This is accentuated by access to technology, particularly the internet where most of the recruitment is taking place today.
The appropriation of safe and open spaces to radicalise poses a challenge that each of our countries need to focus attention on. In this regard, we have focused attention on the enablers of these activities including the financing streams. Last week, my Government moved in to deal with suspected terrorist financiers.
A related challenge is the return of radicalized youths fighting with jihadist groups in foreign lands.
In an effort to address this growing threat, we in Kenya announced an amnesty last week to youths that are ready to surrender and undergo rehabilitation programmes. However, we know that some of these youths are beyond rehabilitation and pose a significant threat to security of our nation and people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kenya continues to bear the brunt of terrorist attacks and the negative over-spill from the anarchy that has ensued in Somalia since the State collapse. These include the refugee burden, proliferation of arms, human trafficking, organized crime, poaching and piracy, to mention but a few. A worrying trend is the growing evidence that links these international crimes to radicalisation activities and terrorism financing.
The ambition of Al-Shabaab which is affiliated to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen) to create an Islamic caliphate in East Africa is therefore a prominent threat to not only regional peace and security but to the stability of Kenya as a modern democratic and secular State. Clearly the last three attacks in Northern Kenya where the terrorists separated Muslims from Christians and systematically executed the latter was meant to ignite an inter-faith conflict between the Christians and Muslims, negating our historical reality of peaceful co-existence.
Thankfully, Kenyans remain steadfastly committed to the values of diversity, freedom of association and religion, and while we have been burying these students across the country, the mood, though sombre and painful has remained peaceful and non-threatening to any Muslim.
Most of these attacks are justified by Islamist propaganda that is not backed by facts nor reflect the reality.
The most rehearsed argument, in the case of Kenya is that attacks on the country are to avenge the presence of the Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. Yet, we all know that the entry of KDF into Somalia was after a series of attacks, over more than two years, that violated Kenya’s territorial integrity, targeted its population and its economy. Undoubtedly, the terrorists and agents are taking advantage and appropriating the open democratic character of our country. It is therefore imperative that we reflect on modalities for securing our young democracies in the face of this threat.
Furthermore, this process must go hand in hand with the restoration of Somalia to stability that guarantees its security and that of its neighbours. For this reason, Kenya will continue to be an active participant of African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the other initiatives engaged in its stabilisation. In this regard, we must pay close attention to developments leading up to 2016.
We must also recognize the enormity of the burden borne by regional states within the extremist hotspots. It is critical that we receive enhanced support and cooperation from the International Community, given that this is a global challenge.
As a region we must formulate effective counter-measures and counter-narratives by appreciating the root cause of threats to the Secular State.
In this regard, as a follow up to the White House Summit, Kenya will host the regional meeting on countering extremist violence at the end of May, 2015. It is my hope that discussions from this forum will feed into that meeting and help us evolve common approaches to this common threat.
In line with our nature and history, we must take measures to enhance inter-agency cooperation and inter-faith dialogue to promote co-existence at the local levels and ensure sustainable peace and security, nationally and regionally.
Given that these threats manifest differently, we must find a structured modality for sharing best practises and enhancing public-private partnerships.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This forum must use the opportunity of exchange today to agree on strategies that secure our democracy from the threat of politicized faith. Only that way can we focus attention on the promise of the 21st century for Africa, to be the growth pole of the world.
I look forward to the outcomes of this meeting.
I thank you and God Bless you.