A truck packed with several hundred kilogrammes of military-grade and homemade explosives unleashed terror, throwing the world into mourning.
The attack, which left more than 300 people dead and hundreds of others injured, is the worst to have happened anywhere in the world – including the war-torn country that neighbours the region from the northeast – in the past few years.
The region must now be on high alert and ensure potential target areas are guarded and citizens protected from any imminent danger. Several attacks have occurred in the coastal region over the past few months, with one leading to the death of Kenya’s principal secretary for public works, Mariam El Maawy.
It is unfortunate that the region and indeed the world at large spends millions of dollars for security purposes, most of it to fight terror groups.
The largest budgetary allocation for many countries is now going to security dockets instead of more productive sectors such as health and education, which have the potential of uplifting the lives of the people.
Although East Africa is among the most vulnerable regions to terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa, little has been done to counter the terror group and attacks continue to be witnessed across the region.
Nearly all the EAC partner states have been victims of terrorist attacks, leaving hundreds of lives lost and property worth millions of dollars destroyed.
In addition, the region has experienced both severe intra and inter-state conflicts, which have led to instability, poverty and the political isolation of some regions, making them vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists.
One way of solving the problem of terrorism in the region is facilitating a peaceful settlement to the problems in Somalia. Unfortunately, years after the region sent troops to join AMISOM, a stable government has not been forthcoming. Years of civil war have left Somalia without a fully-functioning government since 1991, complicating the fight against extremist groups.
But proximity to Somalia alone cannot be blamed for the proliferation of the terror groups in the region and frequent attacks. Other internal conflicts, weak governance, collapsed state institutions, porous borders that allow uncontrolled movement of people and illegal weapons, increased homegrown extremist religious ideologies, and radicalisation of vulnerable groups have all worked together to fuel terrorist attacks.
Sadly, the situation has led to a decline in economic growth, with many Western countries issuing travel advisories that have crippled the hotel and the tourism industries.
The region has been investing in the military to counter terrorism, but this strategy has not altogether worked. A greater more on social and political conditions favouring terrorism and addressing them will go a long way in clamping down on outlawed groups.Most communities associated with terrorism and whose youth are potential targets for recruitment to criminal groups have for a long time complained of marginalisation.
It is the mandate of our governments to ensure inclusivity in the allocation of resources to ensure all citizens are brought on board in the development agenda of the nation.
Unemployment rates have skyrocketed across the region over the past few years due to slow economic growth. As a result, the growing army of unemployed youth has been a prime target of recruitment into radical groups. Solving the problem of unemployment is a sure way of ending the problem of youth recruitment into criminal gangs.But fighting terrorism is not only the mandate of the government. All stakeholders must come together, with religious leaders in particular playing a huge role.
The youth must be discouraged from recruitment to these groups, which calls for societies to invest in guidance, counseling and mentorship programmes for the youth.
The media, too, must highlight terror activities with an intention of crippling the Al-Shabaab and any other emergent groups. Above all, the international community, the UN, IGAD, and EU will have to work closely with regional and sub regional groups, including the EAC, to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure a concerted fight against terror is waged.
East African News Agency