The meaning of Garissa: al-Shabaab’s “beauty contest”

The recent attack that caused the death of 147 students draws attention on a war where everybody is losing

Senza titoloCedric Barnes, a member of the International Crisis group, affirms that with the rise of the Islamic State «Jihadists are having to compete a bit harder with each other», challenging themselves in a sort of “beauty contest”. Hence, with the massacre of Garissa on April 2nd also al-Shabaab seems to be running for the warmest phase of a regional Holy War aimed to convert the East Africa to Islam creed. But which effects is this situation actually creating?

Al-Shabaab is an Islamist terroristic group based in Somalia and its establishment in a “failed State” has granted the possibility to benefit of a discrete freedom of action, which has been hindered by intense campaigns carried on by the Somali, Kenyan and U.S. troops, coordinated by the African Union. The neighbors Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya have been targeted for expanding its battle, and especially Nairobi has been favored for the most cruel intentions, due to historical and especially media matters. First, its threats towards Kenya (as well as the others) attract more international attention than in Somalia, where the IC has not been present for more than 20 years.

Furthermore the Kenyan army have helped the Somali government to face the 2011 internal insurgency and from that moment few certified attacks were launched out of Mogadishu. In fact the counterterrorism forces have well worked to prevent further violence to be spread over the Horn, also by murdering al-Shabaab’s former commander Abdi Godane in September 2014 through a U.S. drone.

But even though al-Shabaab is losing few ground in Somalia, its assaults in the capital still remain quite regular and the recent attack at the Garissa college must not surprise if considering once again the cultural feature of the new Islamic terrorism.

The students describe the college as the frontline of a battle between five armed men and Kenyan security forces whose result was the second deadliest massacre in Kenya after the 1998 al-Qaeda’s bombing on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. At least 147 victims and over 500 hostages (all rescued according to the Ministry of the Interior) have been paralyzing for 24 hours this small city between Nairobi and the Somali border. But the effects are now getting really broad, both within the relation Kenya-Europe and – as mentioned – in al-Shabaab’s strategies.

On one hand President Kenyatta has tried to save the foreign investments in the Country by defining ‘improved’ its security and promising further interventions. At the same time he blamed France and Great Britain, also announced targets, for their negative travel advisors about Nairobi and – he says – for not raising any security issue about other European Capitals (like Paris, for instance).

On the other hand al-Shabaab added a new reference to fully participate like protagonist to the Jihad. But as the journalist Tristan McConnell says, it is «no longer seductive» in such beauty contest. Rather than the Horn of Africa the diaspora Somalis and other potential fighters prefer in fact to move to Syria and Iraq where ISIS’ myth is granting it more logistic, technologic and human resources. In few words, more success. Then we just have to hope that this lack of tools and celebrity could slowly obscure al-Shabaab from the attention of the international media, which are actually helping this competition to go on under bright lights.

Walter Morana

Pubblicato il 13 Aprile 2015

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