Garissa has made undeniable progress. But as one local peace worker explained “Countering violent extremism is short term but peacebuilding is needed for the long term”. [104] This is by no means ‘CVE job done’. All the structural challenges faced by Garissa before the attacks still remain challenges now. If the window of opportunity for addressing them and building a more durable peace is not quickly grasped, attacks could return and the local solidarity in rejecting Shabaab’s violence could evaporate. 

The first challenge is that Shabaab continues to attempt to dislodge Somalia’s internationally backed government, and establish Islamist rule over Somali territory. It retains the capacity to launch bloody attacks in many areas of Somalia. Kenya thus remains embroiled in a Somali conflict that is far from over, and as ongoing attacks in Garissa show, [105] Kenya will remain a battleground in that conflict until it is resolved. 

The KDF thus remains in Kismayo, and the clan divisions connected to this remain.  In 2017, attacks continued in Kenya’s north-east. Not only has there been a steady trickle of Shabaab attacks in Garissa, [106] but notably also in Mandera County, [107] to the north. This may be partly because local Kenyan Somalis of the Marehan clan remain angry that the Kenyan-Ogaden alliance within Somalia has diminished Marehan influence. 

Mandera’s challenges are highly relevant to Garissa’s future. Violent conflict between Somali sub-clans broke out there in 2014 when a deadlock between Garre and Degodia sub-clans over constituency and county boundaries led to scores of deaths and the displacement of over 18,000 households. In subsequent months, those who had lost out to their rivals allegedly began colluding with Shabaab. Later in 2014, attacks on a bus and a quarry followed, killing 64 up-country Christians and professionals. [108] Local teachers and health workers deserted the county in the aftermath. As we have seen, Garissa may have built solidarity against al-Shabaab, but this could prove brittle. [109]

In 2017, Garissa’s dominant and minority sub-clans remain locked in intense rivalries – at loggerheads over land, water, and seats in national and county government. [110] They need to find a political accommodation in which each gets a satisfactory share of power in the 2017 elections, and they need to manage their divisions on other issues. Local politicians have used violence as a tool in previous elections. Some have been recorded in recent months exploiting divisions and threatening rival groups to appeal to their supporters. [111] One of the campaigning messages has been to denounce Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia as self-seeking. [112]

As in Mandera, local leaders and groups who lose out could turn to Shabaab, whose strategy of fomenting division and polarisation could regain ground. As is well-known, “al-Shabaab exploits clan divisions to gain recruits … by taking the part of lesser sub-clans”. [113]

The same arguments apply when it comes to inter-religious distrust. There has been progress on this – but this does not mean divisions can’t return. Interviewees suggested that better knowledge about the tenets of Islam could make it harder for Shabaab to convince disaffected people to turn to violent methods. 

More broadly, many Somalis and Muslims still feel like second-class citizens in Kenya. To make progress on the integration of Somalis and Muslims, the long term marginalisation of Garissa has to be rapidly addressed – including tackling such issues as unemployment, weak infrastructure, and poor service provision. Yet further attacks on health and education staff could again put Garissa’s weak social service provision into reverse gear, illustrating the urgency of building peace on the back of recent security improvements. If local people are right that big financial rewards are offered to potential attackers, [114] then decent livelihoods are also part of the solution to the problem. 

When it comes to security, despite the improvements, still there are concerns. For one thing, the police presence in Garissa remains very thin: in a sparsely populated area, all posts with less than 40 officers have been closed. [115] 

More importantly, in spite of Saleh’s achievements, the allegation by Mandera’s deputy governor that security agencies were involved in the deaths of five Mandera county residents whose bodies were discovered in July 2017 starkly illustrates the security and trust deficits that remain in Kenya’s North East. [116]

Furthermore, as an NGO worker put it: “The police have upped their game, but some corruption still exists”. [117] Local young women told us that they still fear and distrust the police. Young people we interviewed told us how they had been harassed by police. Shakedowns remain common during checks on ID. We heard from one respondent how police demanded payment for return of a confiscated passport, and from another how despite showing his school ID he had been shaken down for 500 Kenyan Shillings on the way back from Dadaab to Garissa town for not producing his birth certificate. [118]

In another case we heard about the random detention of a Muslim clergyman and local chief who had been actively campaigning against al-Shabaab but who were nonetheless automatically suspected of involvement with the group, based purely on their identity. Despite the production of witnesses to vouch for their innocence, the chief was only released after payment of a bribe. This underlines the overall sense (that was also found in Lamu) that ordinary people, especially Muslims, remain under suspicion and not free to go about their business.  

This is closely connected to how Garissa is affected by Kenya’s issues with Somali refugees and the huge Dadaab refugee complex. Authorities are in the process of vetting refugees in Garissa county, and asserting the distinction between them and Kenyan Somalis. While Somalia remains deeply fragile, huge numbers of refugees will remain inside Kenya, and their relation with authorities may well remain deeply troubled. If so, this can add to the climate of fear and suspicion for both refugees and Kenyan Somalis, and feed new cycles of violence and revenge. 

And although a window opened up recently during voter registration for local people to obtain IDs, many locals still cannot establish their legitimate identity as Kenyan citizens. This makes it harder to rent property, access services or get a job, and may make joining a violent movement more tempting to some. 

Corruption in security institutions also creates other risks. As one interviewee told us: “Corruption has allowed easy entry of al-Shabaab operatives and their weapons through bribery at security roadblocks”. [119] Such corruption will remain entrenched given that it is reinforced by Garissa’s position in the borderlands of a thriving war economy: it is common knowledge among locals that Garissa remains ‘a smuggling town of black market goods’, [120] and as in Kismayo, trafficking means revenue for Shabaab. [121]

While such challenges persist, progress on security and peacebuilding in Garissa will remain tentative and fragile. For those ready to recognise the need to build peace so that Garissa’s problems will not return, the contours of a strategy to build a durable peace in Garissa should be relatively clear. 

Firstly, in Somalia, AMISOM’s efforts to create secure conditions for the new federal states need to provide better security for the Somali people. Accountability for abuses is a critical priority to stop the creation of fresh grievances that can easily spill into Kenya. Ultimately, the military effort needs to be complemented and eventually replaced by a political strategy to achieve reconciliation among any groups willing to renounce violence and move forward. And building the confidence of Somali people means investing in services, inclusive governance structures, and cross-clan, bottom-up dialogue and reconciliation processes. Success in fostering a just peace in Somalia along these lines is the key to freeing Kenya and Garissa from their terror problems. 

building the confidence of Somali people means investing in services, inclusive governance structures, and cross-clan, bottom-up dialogue and reconciliation processes. Success in fostering a just peace in Somalia along these lines is the key to freeing Kenya and Garissa from their terror problems.

Secondly, in Garissa, the government should safeguard the progress of recent times by institutionalising the changes introduced by a respected local security leader. Tackling corruption and inefficiency while ending arbitrary arrests and beatings and creating channels of communication and accountability with communities has achieved clear results. 

Third, now is the time to move rapidly on infrastructure, job creation, health and education services, to demonstrate to all residents of Garissa – both Somalis and others, Muslims and non-Muslims – that they have the same rights and life chances as other Kenyans. 

now is the time to move rapidly on infrastructure, job creation, health and education services, to demonstrate to all residents of Garissa – both Somalis and others, Muslims and non-Muslims – that they have the same rights and life chances as other Kenyans.

And lastly, but far from least, structures to ensure dialogue and constructive mediation of disputes and power struggles between Somali clans and sub-clans, and with other identity groups within Garissa and across county borders, need to be in place and functioning. [122] These need not be formal or official structures if informal systems are adequate to the task – the crucial thing is that they work so that local conflicts do not spill into the kinds of violence seen recently in Mandera to the north. 

Such a strategy for Garissa will be much easier to put in place if Kenya’s international friends understand the importance of peacebuilding – a strategy to address the grievances and relationships that could lead to further conflict – in Garissa. This means having the vision to look beyond immediate reinforcement of Kenyan military and security capacities in Somalia and Kenya – to which the EU and US have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade. [123] It also means building on the new approach taken in Garissa, and making continuous efforts to challenge counter-productive tactics.

A narrow focus on undermining the ideology of Shabaab and targeting its potential recruits will not get the job done. The real priority is to get behind new governance and security approaches to Kenya’s marginalised communities that can deliver a better deal for them. This is the only way to settle the long-standing identity-based cleavages that pose real risks to Kenya’s future stability.

International actors also need to recognise that the task is much broader than either stopping terror through lawful and proportionate military and law enforcement efforts or focusing on the ‘push and pull factors’ that may lead individuals to join Shabaab or aligned movements (the standard preoccupation of CVE strategies and programmes). The vital task is to encourage and support a more direct focus on the drivers of conflict that could lead to further rounds of violence in Garissa. A narrow focus on undermining the ideology of Shabaab and targeting its potential recruits will not get the job done. The real priority is to get behind new governance and security approaches to Kenya’s marginalised communities that can deliver a better deal for them. This is the only way to settle the long-standing identity-based cleavages that pose real risks to Kenya’s future stability.


Footnotes

104. Interview with a local peace worker, Garissa town, January 2017
105. Ombati C (2017), ‘Four killed in IED explosion in Garissa’, Standard Digital, 16 May (https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001239978/four-killed-in-ied-explosion-in-garissa)
106. For example: Ombati C (2017), ‘Four killed in IED explosion in Garissa’, Standard Digital, 16 May (https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001239978/four-killed-in-ied-explosion-in-garissa)
107. For example: Ombati C (2017), ‘Five police officers killed as Mandera governor survives IED attack’, Standard Digital, 24 May (https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001241002/five-police-officers-killed-as-mandera-governor-survives-ied-attack)
108. Stewart C (2014), ‘Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab gunmen behead and shoot 36 non-Muslim labourers at Mandera quarry’, The Independent, 2 December (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/kenya-bus-attack-gunmen-kill-36-at-mandera-quarry-9896973.html)
109. For example: International Crisis Group (2015), ‘Kenya’s Somali North East: Devolution and Security’, 17 November, pp 11-12 (https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b114-kenya-s-somali-north-east-devolution-and-security.pdf
110. For example: International Crisis Group (2015), ‘Kenya’s Somali North East: Devolution and Security’, 17 November, pp 11-12 (https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b114-kenya-s-somali-north-east-devolution-and-security.pdf
111. Nzau D, YouTube (2017), ‘Adan Duale Jubilee majority leader and Garissa town MP calling for violence against Kambas’, 5 January (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f45KwyBdQ6k)
112. Standard Digital (2017), ‘Farah Maalim captured on tape inciting Somalis against non-locals’, 14 January (https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000229878/farah-maalim-captured-on-tape-inciting-somalis-against-non-locals)
113. Anderson D, McKnight J (2014), ‘Understanding al-Shabaab: clan, Islam and insurgency in Kenya’, p 544 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17531055.2015.1082254)
114. Focus group discussion with university students, Garissa town, January 2017
115. International Crisis Group (2015), ‘Kenya’s Somali North East: Devolution and Security’, 17 November, p 12 (https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b114-kenya-s-somali-north-east-devolution-and-security.pdf)
116. Otsialo M (2017), ‘Five bodies found in shallow grave in Mandera’, Daily Nation, 4 July (http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/mandera/Five-bodies-found-buried-in-shallow-grave/1183298-3998742-4ujkcr/index.html); Otsialo M (2017), ‘Kenya: Mandera Leaders Accuse Security Agencies of Killing Residents’, Daily Nation, 4 July (http://allafrica.com/stories/201707050300.html); Otsialo M (2017), ‘Leaders accuse security agencies of killing residents’, Daily Nation, 4 July (http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/mandera/leaders-accuse-security-agencies-of-killing-local-residents/1183298-4000452-d3k2lez/index.html
117. Interview with NGO worker, Garissa town, January 2017
118. Focus group discussion, Garissa town, January 2017
119.  Mixed focus group discussion, Garissa town, January 2017
120. Mixed focus group discussion, Garissa town, January 2017
121. International Crisis Group (2015), ‘Kenya’s Somali North East: Devolution and Security’, 17 November, p 12 (https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b114-kenya-s-somali-north-east-devolution-and-security.pdf)
122. Ibid p 2 (https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/b114-kenya-s-somali-north-east-devolution-and-security.pdf): “The government should establish an independent commission of national and local experts to offer solutions on the contentious issues at the core of the inter-clan frictions, such as borders, land, wells and justice and restitution for losses”. 
123. Anderson D, McKnight J (2014), ‘Kenya at war: al-Shabaab and its enemies in Eastern Africa’, p 27 (https://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/114/454/1.abstract)

Header photo: Young men play football on the beach in Kismayo, 2016. Photo: Saferworld/Cultural Video Production