Internal and external security threats rock new government’s boat

  • 17 Feb 2023
  • 4 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Warothe


Five months since President William Ruto was sworn in as the Commander-in-Chief, the threat to Kenyan national security has been on upward trend.


Externally, success in the Somali battleground against Al Shabab by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the Somali army, has had the inverse consequence of increased terrorism risk in Kenya from the terrorist group that is on the run.


The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on Thursday, February 9, appealed to the public to volunteer information that may lead to the arrest of five dangerous terrorism suspects, linked to al-Shabaab terrorist network.


Writing in The Star, veteran security journalist Cyrus Ombati said officials believed that dozens of al-Shabaab terrorists may have slipped into Kenya from Somalia and were planning an attack on Nairobi.


The DCI appeal was made hours after the US embassy in Nairobi issued a terror alert warning its citizens that terrorists may target high-traffic areas frequented by foreigners and tourists in Nairobi and elsewhere in Kenya.


Meanwhile, the Sunday Nation on February 5 publihed a report that recent terrorist attacks in Lamu and Garissa had forced Kenyan authorities to suspend construction of a crucial road linking Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia for a period of six weeks.

Speaking after meeting chiefs and their assistants, North Eastern Regional Commissioner John Otieno stated: “We have witnessed a re-emergence of al-Shabaab activities along the Lapsset corridor. We cannot allow militants to interfere with the progress of this project.”


It is worth remembering that six months into the Jubilee administration in 2013, al-Shabaab terrorists carried out a four-day siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi in September 2013 that left 67 dead. This was then followed by an increased spate of terrorist attacks in Kenya’s north that eventually led to the sacking of Jubilee’s first Cabinet Secretary of Interior Joseph ole Lenku in December 2014 and the appointment of opposition politician and retired general, the late Joseph Nkaissery.


Fast forward nine years and the newly appointed CS for Interior, Prof. Kithure Kindiki, has endured a baptism by fire occasioned by banditry attacks in Kenya’s north that have spiraled out of control with more than 100 civilians and 16 police officers killed in the past six months.  


This internal threat has led to the declaration of the security situation in the North Rift as a national emergency and the imposition of a 30-day dusk-to-dawn curfew in the banditry-hit areas. Additionally, President Ruto has ordered the KDF to conduct a joint security operation with the police in all banditry-prone areas starting Tuesday, February 14, to combat lawlessness, which has hampered education and development and caused tensions among communities.


According to the 2010 Constitution, deployment of KDF inside the country is subject to the approval of Parliament and a motion to that effect had been tabled before Parliament.

However, with an amended gazette notice which indicated that the police would lead the

assault with the military only providing support, Parliamentary approval was not necessary.


So, all eyes will now be on the soft-spoken, military-fatigue wearing Prof. Kindiki who has to move house on the orders of his boss, the President, who speaking during a thanksgiving service in Nakuru on Sunday said, “CS Kindiki is not here today because he was in Baringo today. He was in Turkana yesterday. I have told him to leave his office in Nairobi to go and live in the North Rift until the banditry comes to an end.”

President Ruto is following in his predecessor’s footsteps as in March 2017, former President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the deployment of the KDF to Baringo, Laikipia, Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties.


That six years later another military deployment to the same areas has been ordered by a new president, points to the futility of using hard power to tackle what is culturally and politically-fueled banditry.


Previously, the administration in Nairobi and even a majority of Kenyans could afford to turn a blind eye to the insecurity in the far-flung northern Kenya. But the discovery of oil and increased infrastructure projects such as Lapsset means that northern Kenya now lies at the centre of Kenya’s future socio-economic development plans and insecurity in the north has a direct impact on the Kenyan economy and on the East African Community at large.


Even as Kenya keeps an eye on al-Shabab and its increased threat, the escalating banditry in the North that has led to areas in six counties being declared as “dangerous and disturbed”, the country’s military is also now entangled in the long-lasting quest for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).


Speaking in Parliament during debate for the deployment of the peace-keeping KDF troops to DRC in November 2022, Mandera North MP Bashir Sheikh said Kenya has a stake in the DRC conflict, pointing out Kenyan banks with operations in the Great Lakes country and the use of the port of Mombasa to transport goods to DRC.


Between November 2022 and May 2023, Kenya was poised to spend KSh4.45 billion to keep its troops in the mineral-rich DRC. But according to the National Assembly’s departmental committee on Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations, the budget for keeping KDF in DRC could rise to KSh6 billion if the troops stay beyond the initial six months.


Clearly, security or lack of it has a direct impact on a country’s economy and so how the Ruto administration tackles the security situation both internally and externally is a matter of national interest.