Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Kenya must counter Shabaab propaganda

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apart from diehard members of al Shabaab militia group few people can credibly question the merits of the Kenyan military incursion into Somalia.

Kenya has displayed extraordinary patience in the face of numerous provocations from this extremist organisation whose aims are entirely unclear.

No nation would sit on the sidelines while bandits from a neighbouring country make criminal forays into its territory, threatening lives and livelihoods.

Now that the battle has been joined it is essential that the military accomplishes its mission of dismantling the Shabaab training camps or pushing them as far away from the Kenyan border as possible.

It would be ideal if success was achieved with minimum loss of life and in the fastest time possible. In reality, wars are messy affairs and it is impossible to tell how this conflict will end.

By forcing al Shabaab into a swift retreat, Kenyan forces have demonstrated their capacity on the battlefield in the towns which have been contested so far.

The communications department of the military and the other ministries handling this conflict must show similar skill in fighting back against the propaganda that the Shabaab are purveying in the battle for hearts and minds.

Whatever one may think about al Shabaab, you have to concede that they have displayed considerable finesse in their communication strategy since the military surprised them by entering Somalia.They have sought to set Kenyans against their government by claiming that the authorities are exposing citizens to the suicide bombers they have threatened to send to Nairobi.

False message

More importantly, they have sent out a blatantly false message to the people of Somalia claiming that this is a war between Christians and Muslims and that the Kenyans are an occupying force.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Everybody in Kenya knows that the nation has a long history of harmonious coexistence between people of different religions and that the military is composed of individuals of different faiths.

It is also a fact that Kenya has no grudge against the people of Somalia. To the contrary, Kenya is possibly Somalia’s best friend. The nation has hosted hundreds of thousands of Somalis fleeing from hunger and conflict in their homeland.

During the Moi and Kibaki presidencies, no country has done more to facilitate peace talks in that troubled land than Kenya. This conflict is not aimed at the people of Somalia but at an intolerable, misguided bunch of extremists that excel at causing trouble in the neighbourhood.

This message must ring out clearly to the people of Somalia. The most important medium of communication in Somalia is radio and it is important that Kenyan officials find ways of relaying the message that the country is not an occupying force and that we are in fact on the side of the people of Somalia that have suffered for so long from the ravages of Shabaab attacks.


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