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Kenya’s Uncertain Security Environment

Bottom Line: The security situation in Kenya is set to worsen in the aftermath of the September attack on a shopping center as anti-terror police overstep their bounds and threaten to create more radical recruits on their own territory.

Analysis: New intelligence is coming in regarding the September attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, in September in which 67 people were killed. Western intelligence is keen to point out that the four Somali militants behind the attack drove overland from Somalia into Kenya and did not originate from the Dadaab refugee camp—the largest in the world—housing some half a million Somalis in northern Kenya. According to Western officials, four al-Shabaab militants crossed over into Somali in June and stayed in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh, also known as “Little Mogadishu” after the Somali capital. Four foreigners have been charged with aiding the attackers by sheltering them in Nairobi from June until the attack in September. All four deny the accusations. Two of the attackers have also been identified, but not apprehended. Among them are Hassan Dhuhulow, a Somali-Norwegian, and Mohammad Abdinur Said, about which little else is known at this time.

This intelligence is important because it removes any links to the Dadaab refugee camp inside Kenya. If the Kenyan authorities target the Dadaab refugee camp in their investigations, using questionable methods of detainment and interrogation, the security situation in Kenya will spiral downward. Such actions by Kenya’s anti-terror police would harvest new recruits for al-Shabaab from within Dadaab. The investigation coincides with United Nations attempts to lure Somali refugees in Kenya back home now that the security there has somewhat improved.

An influential Kenyan human rights group backed by George Soros is closely scrutinizing the Kenyan authorities’ activities and calling on both London and Washington to cease providing support for the country’s anti-terror police (ATPU), which it says is operating outside of the law. They note at least 20 disappearances of people at the hands of the ATPU, and a string of extra-judicial killings.

Recommendation: Public statements by certain Kenyan politicians suggesting that Dadaab is a haven for al-Shabaab militants and that the attack on Westgate may have originated from the refugee camp are dangerous. While Kenya can contain the threat from al-Shabaab emanating from Somalia, it will have a more difficult time containing threats it creates within its own borders by targeting the entire Somali community there. Investors should be particularly concerned with the security situation in the port city of Mombasa, which is a key recruiting ground for al-Shabaab. Much of the anti-terror police’s most questionable activities are being carried out in strategic Mombasa and this is likely to provide a swell of support and recruits for al-Shabaab, which is attempting to boost its ranks after being weakened by Kenyan forces in Somalia. These activities are not only counterproductive but risk worsening the security situation.

It is also unlikely that the UN will meet with much success in convincing Somali refugees to return home—even with potential cash and food incentives to do so. Dadaab is not your typical refugee camp. The refugees here have become entrenched and the settlement resembles mid-sized cities spread over a vast terrain and including its own shops, hotels and factories.
We urge extra caution in Kenya in the coming months, particularly in Nairobi and Mombasa. Companies with personnel in Kenya should also be prepared for an increase in violent crime. Earlier this week, an Australian businessman was gunned down in his house by 10 attackers, some of them wearing police uniforms, in an affluent neighborhood of Nairobi. The attack was an apparent robbery.

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