East Africa And The Business Of Terrorism

Uhuru Kenyatta Now Key Regional Point Man
Western countries have repeatedly tried to sabotage the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta

AFRICANGLOBE – The security, banking and insurance sectors are some of the industries that have seen growth and benefits, with the rise of terrorist threats globally.

In some cases the benefits come from funnelling and laundering the proceeds of terror. Worldwide, the defence sector or the military-industrial complex, as it also referred to, has also gained tremendously in the last decade.

In terms of military expenditure, Kenya tops East Africa as the largest importer of weaponry. In 2013, Kenya allocated some US$846 million for its security expenditure.

This was more than what was allocated to the health and agriculture ministries, whose combined allocation was US$832 million.

At the heart of all this increased security expenditure is

al-Shabaab, which seems to have active cells spread out in East Africa. A study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that East African nations are still attractive for criminals and terrorist organisations to launder their spoils.

“The legislative framework to combat organised crime, money laundering and the financing of terrorism is weak in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, leaving these countries vulnerable and attractive to criminals to use them as safe havens,” UNODC says.

Al-Shabaab is believed to have benefited from the annual US$53 million piracy booty. But this is not just limited to the regional countries alone. Bab el Mandeb, the strait between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, is an important sea lane for crude oil, accounting for some 30 percent of the world’s total supply.

It is this strait and Somalia’s instability which has seen the US, France, Japan and the EU building military bases in Djibouti and running naval fleets along the Western Indian Ocean rim under the pretext of anti-piracy operations. The European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU-NAVFOR) budget since 2010 totalled US$54 million).

The 600-acre US Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has a US$1.2 billion budget set aside for the next 25 years. France and Japan pay US$41 million each to Djibouti for the lease of their respective military bases in this tiny Horn of Africa nation.

The developed nations also strategically positioned themselves within the Horn of Africa to protect their mineral and oil interests from both the Middle East and Africa.

Recent oil and gas finds in the western Indian Ocean shelf have only increased the interest of the region to the world and go a long way in explaining the increase in defence spending, not to mention the rise of terrorism threats and al-Shabaab’s stature.

Meanwhile, it is not only how the terrorist groups are rising, but how they are financially connected, which is of growing concern.

Previously, al-Shabaab was believed to be benefiting from the annual US$53 million piracy booty, but this was not confirmed. Al-Shabaab like all similar organisations is much more than just a terror organisation. It is also a money-minting entity.

When the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) captured al-Shabaab’s stronghold of Kismayu on Somalia’s south coast in September 2012 they dealt a severe blow to one of the militant group’s financial arteries. Kismayu port not only accorded al-Shabaab regular income in terms of port fees and taxes, but was the main export point of charcoal to the Middle East, which earned the group some US$25 million a   year.

According to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, informal taxes, ransom, extortion, remittances from the Somali diaspora and state sponsorship from various nations, are some of al-Shabaab’s main sources of   funding.

But even as they source for funds to finance their operations, it has emerged from the multiple arrests made that there is a closely-knit collaboration between al-Shabaab and other terror groups not just in eastern Africa, but across the continent. Indeed, terror organisations seem to be well connected and to enjoy cordial relations free of the bureaucracy commonly seen in African government agencies.

East Africa And The Business Of Terrorism
It is not irrational to think that most terrorist groups in Africa are foreign backed and funded

It has been established that al-Shabaab has close working relations with other similar factions in the African continent such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Eddine, Boko Haram, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Oneness (MUJAO), al-Mouthalimin Brigade and Ansaru Islamists.

Regionally, al-Shabaab’s influence is finding traction with similar groups in East Africa, allowing it to gain a foothold where it once lacked support.

Uamsho (Swahili for “re-awakening”), a Muslim group officially referred to as the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation, was founded in 2001. The group seeks an autonomous Islamist Zanzibar and since 2010 took an open political posture by opposing the coalition between the Isles’ opposition party the Civic United Front (CUF) and the mainland’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

Meanwhile, an interesting pattern has emerged in the wake of the recent wave of attacks in Nairobi. Other than Westgate, all other attacks have occurred in low-income vicinities. However, in the last few weeks matters have taken a new twist, thrusting Kenya in the international limelight.

It all started on May 14, when the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned against all, but essential travel to Kenya’s coastal region, famous for its beaches and a favourite holiday haunt in mid-May. The FCO’s main reason given for issuing the advisory was categorical terrorism it claimed.

A day later the British government chartered flights and started the evacuation of more than 700 tourists from Mombasa. Most tourists interviewed were unconvinced of the reasons given by the British government.

The US government followed suit, saying terror threats had forced the US embassy in Nairobi to cut down its staff and increase security personnel. Australia, Canada, France and Sweden followed suit.

On May 16, as the tourists were being evacuated in Mombasa, 10 people were killed after twin bomb explosions rocked Gikomba market in downtown Nairobi.

This was the second public attack following the 4 May twin attack on public transport buses along Thika Superhighway, which resulted in two deaths and over 50 people injured.

The Kenyan government, however, is reading mischief out of the travel advisories and the forced emigration of tourists. State House, Nairobi aides condemned the advisories as economic sabotage aimed at weakening Kenya’s Euro-centric tourism industry.

The travel advisories are now being interpreted as an open attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee government for signing a multi-billion dollar deals with the Chinese government. A week before the travel advisories were issued, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Nairobi and signed 17 agreements on economic cooperation grants, interest free loans and a US$3.5 billion deal to build a standard gauge railway that will run through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

An interesting pattern has emerged in the last few months with these four nations being seen as enthusiastically pro-East by moving closer to the Chinese and diluting decades-old business relationships once enjoyed by the West.

Addressing a rally in Kikuyu town, outside of Nairobi, Kenyatta was categorical. “The removal of British tourists from Kenya was not done in good faith. When they were attacked in their own countries they were asking for help,” Kenyatta told the charged crowd. “But when Kenya is attacked, they run and abandon us. The tourism industry will be  resilient.”

Kenya’s neighbour and AMISOM’s main troops contributor, Uganda, is also on high alert over terror attacks. According to Uganda police spokesman Fred Enanga, the country has been on high alert in the last few months with intelligence reports indicating a possible attack in Kampala.


By: Wanjohi Kabukuru