A former senior military officer has called for sensitization of youth on security issues as one way of boosting the country’s efforts in the war against terror.
Major (rtd) Steve Lekona, currently a security consultant has noted that owing to the fact that majority of those joining organized criminal gangs are young people, it is prudent to target them and ensure they have an alternative that can keep them away from such vices.
Lekona, who initially served in Somali after Kenyan troops rehatted to the African Union Mission for Somali (AMISOM) explains that majority of those who join proscribed groups do so due to frustration after failing to secure a source of earning a livelihood.
The former soldier was speaking on Tuesday at Machakos Huduma centre during the launch of the County Countering Violent Extremism Action Plan.
“We need to target the youth through visiting our churches, schools and mosques and spreading the message of countering violent extremism and organized crime. We need to give the youths an alternative to life other than joining criminal gangs. Only by doing so can we steer them from taking to criminal gangs and enlisting in terrorist cells,” said Lekona who is currently working at Day Star University as the Chief Security Officer.
The Local Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chairman Mutavi Kithu on his part called on business operators to be on the lookout for entrepreneurs flocking to the county to open up investments to ensure their undertakings are not detrimental to security.
He said every time terrorists strike, the first casualty are business operators who suffer depressed earnings as clients and potential investors are scared away.
“Business people need to be involved in the war against terror through monitoring and being in touch with what the next door investor is doing. We need to be aware about what our neigbours are doing to deter criminal elements from infiltrating our ranks and hurting us later,” he said.
The Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), Geoffrey Teragon who was the chief guest at the function termed the war against violent extremism a national issue and called upon all to support the government in its efforts to secure the country’s borders.
He said since the 1998 bomb blast that killed more than 240 people besides injuring more than 5,000 others, the nation has suffered dozens of subsequent attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives, maimed thousands others besides scaring away potential investors.
He challenged politicians, traders, financial institutions and county leaders to support the government in her efforts to deal with radicalization of youths into criminal gangs.
“Kenya has suffered immensely over the years due to incursion of terror groups into the country ranging from loss of lives and destruction of vital economic pillars like tourism. It is therefore foolhardy for anyone to sit on the fence and fail to play a part in this crusade at a time like this when we still face potential security threats from armed groups,” emphasized the administrator.
Kenya is among a growing list of countries in the world that have borne the brunt of terrorist attacks since the country launched Operation Linda Nchi in Somali in 2011.
On January 5th this year suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists overran a US military air base in Manda Bay,Lamu county , killing three American soldiers on the spot.
Five members of the Somali-based terror group were also shot dead in the attack by security forces.
The attack followed a US drone attack on Al Shabaab’s hideouts in Somalia that had destroyed the group’s bases besides killing several fighters.
And in January 13 this year, three teachers were shot dead by suspected Al Shabaab gunmen in Garissa in an incident that prompted calls for the government to withdraw non-local teachers from the former Northern Frontier.
The victims (all non-locals) were shot dead after the gunmen attacked Kamuthe Resource Centre in Garissa County in the dead of the night.
Another male adult was also hit and injured by a stray bullet during the 2 am incident while female teachers and nurses at the institution were reportedly spared after being identified by the terrorists.
The recent incursions by the Al Shabaab come almost a year after the group lunched a daring daylight attack at the Dusit2 Hotel in Westlands Nairobi.
The attack took place at the 14 Riverside Drive complex on January 15 last year when five suspected Al Shaabab gunmen stormed the premises and killed 21 people and wounded scores of others before Special Forces brought them down.
A total of 700 people were eventually rescued from the building.
By Samuel Maina/Faith Ngewa