The National Counter Terrorism Centre says the country’s anti-terrorism initiatives are bearing fruits. While delivering an enumerated account of the triumphs made ever since some large-scale attacks were carried out on Kenyan soil a couple of years ago, officials from the multi-agency instrument noted that the country has largely kept the enemy at bay.
Unknown to many Kenyans, NCTC Deputy Director Peter Opondo says the Kenyan security services have been detecting and disrupting multiple terrorist plots. He says their facilitation networks have similarly been foiled.
Speaking during an interview at KBC Channel 1, Opondo said this has been achieved through the implementation of different strategies alongside major investments aimed at guaranteeing members of the public their security.
“The Kenya government has marshaled all the resources both the material and human resources to react to terror attacks as they happen,” Opondo said
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But apart from ensuring that security agencies are adequately-resourced to respond to terrorist acts especially before they take place, Opondo pointed out that this level of success is also attributed to the relationship between security agencies and members of the public which, he says, has greatly improved.
“After DusitD2 attack, yes, there were deaths, but Kenyans came out strongly to rally support behind the security agencies who did a very good job. This sent a message out there that even if you attack us, we are resilient.” The deputy directed said
He says Kenyans now appreciate that ‘it is not the mandate of the government alone but a collective responsibility to defend the country.’
This view was supported by Felix Opondo, a clinical psychologist who consults for the center, who said whereas security agencies handle the pursuit of terrorists, members of the public have been instrumental in preventing terror from happening by way of information sharing.
“It’s important for members of the public to be vigilant. Publics are encouraged to continue reporting suspicious incidents and what they know.” He said during the program.
He added that “Kenyans have shown maturity and understanding (on terror-related incidents). In DusitD2, unlike in previous attacks, there was minimal posting and sending of attack pictures online. By doing this, they didn’t glorify terror.”
According to the psychologist, this synergy has been crucial given that “terrorists thrive on threats, intimidation, and creation of fear.”
He says this is the ultimate goal of their attacks but has so far failed.
Opondo further highlighting that the country is registering success in curtailing the radicalization of young people in places previously considered hotspots.
“If we can be able to stop recruitment, there is no terrorism.” He said
As an institution mandated to coordinate national counter-terrorism efforts, NCTC Deputy Director said the center has been proactively establishing mechanisms that will ensure the country remains ahead of the curve in the war on terror.
“We are involved in so many proactive strategies with a lot of innovations so as to harden the targets which can be used by the terrorists.” He added
He said on numerous occasions in the past terror groups have targeted Kenya’s democratic principles and ideals as well as the existing cohesion amongst her people by exploiting people’s faiths.
Knowing the country’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition, the center says it has developed programs to deny the terrorists the luxury of undermining this cohesion.
This is why NCTC is now working with religious groups to eliminate ‘phobia’ amongst different faiths. The agency especially notes successes in frustrating campaign by terrorists to plant seeds of discord within religious organizations.
“When terrorists came, they knew one way of breaking the society was to infiltrate what we love most, religion. Apart from diving us along ethnic lines, they now thought the other thing binding Kenyans together is religion, because people here have a strong affinity to religion.” The senior NCTC official said.
“Interfaith is the foundation of deradicalization because radicalization thrives in ideology. In violent extremism, ideology is found in religion” Opondo, the psychologist added
The two experts were however quick to note that the patterns of recruitment are changing and is now being done online. With an estimated 4 million smartphones and a large percentage of youth owning a smartphone, NCTC is concerned that some of them might easily find themselves browsing dangerous websites that are grounds for recruitment.
On this, the agency is again engaging various groups so as to stop young people thought to be the target group from falling victims.