Amid bloodshed, Kenya’s leader plays dangerous game

Uhuru Kenyatta

In accusing “local political networks” and an “opportunist network of other criminal gangs,” Kenya’s president has tried obliquely to blame his political opposition for recent bloodshed, writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in today’s column. It’s a dangerous tactic, which focuses attention on a history of bloody rivalry and the country’s ineffectual government since independence from Britain. An excerpt: 

It is logical, but far too easy, to blame the Somali-based militant Islamic group al-Shabaab for massacres in two Kenyan coastal communities on Sunday and Monday in which close to 100 people were killed.

It’s logical because the attacks on the town of Mpeketoni and the nearby village of Majembeni fit into a pattern of about 100 revenge terrorist attacks by al-Shabaab since the Kenyan military invaded Somalia in 2011 to help other regional forces dislodge the Muslim extremists. The most high-profile of these was last September’s terrorist attack on the upmarket Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in which at least 67 people died.

But, despite al-Shabaab’s claim of responsibility for these latest attacks close to the coastal tourist Mecca of Lamu, domestic political struggles, especially for control of land, look to be a far more likely reason for the bloodshed.

Indeed, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Tuesday, the massacres were the work of “local political networks” and not al-Shabaab. … read more (subscription required)*

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Local grievances fuel Kenyan massacres

Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page is here.

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