Prepare for a harder fight, warns anti-terror centre

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By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The National Counter Terrorism Centre says Kenyans must prepare for a “harder fight” to defend their freedoms, in the face of rising terror fuelled by extremists.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, the Centre’s Director, Martin Kimani, warned that terrorism has become a new threat to civil liberties which should jolt everyone to rise up against terror merchants.

“This threat used to mostly be from totalitarian governments like the old Soviet Union which enforced atheism. Now the greatest such threat is from totalitarian movements and groups espousing militant Jihadism,” Dr Kimani, who also serves as Kenya’s Special Envoy for Counter-Violent Extremism (CVE), said.

“We should expect to fight much harder for our freedom of religion. Especially within the Muslim community which is the target of groups like al-Shabaab, al Qaeda and ISIS that have militarised with a view to making Muslims more extremist and opposed to living under secular or constitutional rule.”

Kenya has recently come under renewed attacks from groups suspected to be associated with al-Shabaab. In the past two weeks, several police and civilians have been killed in roadside explosions thought to be masterminded by the al-Shabaab.

But the call for a harder fight also seems to have been influenced by a comment by British Prime Minister Theresa May who called for a change of strategy to fight a “new trend” of terror.

After the Manchester and London attacks, Ms May warned the British Government could toughen penalties for terrorists and called on global allies to drain any safe havens for violent extremists.

“There is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations,” May argued, promising to empower the police by amending certain laws and limiting internet freedoms.

Kenya’s own strategy against extremism seems to borrow from the British leaf. Dr Kimani told the Sunday Nation this is meant to defend the country against groups promoting rejection of constitutional order, the Bill of Rights and territorial integrity.

“Civil society will need to speak up more clearly against the purveyors of religious hatred and illiberalism. It is not enough to just oppose tribalism, civil society must have the courage of its convictions and oppose those who use religion to fight against democracy and our constitutional freedoms.

“We will need a national debate on anti-constitutional extremism and hatred. Should you have the right to use constitutional rights to try and destroy constitutional rights and campaign to convince Kenyans that they are not citizens and that Kenya itself should not exist?” he asked.

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