Thomas Mukoya / Reuters Teresa Apiyo carries a portrait of her cousin Selpha Wanda, a student killed during the Garissa attack, April 9, 2015.

Kenya's Own Worst Enemy

Al Shabab Isn't the Real Problem

Corruption, injustice, abuse, disillusionment, marginalization, and radicalization are the legacies of years of misguided policies in Kenya. After an al Shabab rampage in Garissa earlier this month left over 140 university students dead, these issues are impossible to ignore. If Nairobi continues to refuse to address them or fails to do so, the already troubled East African country will soon become even more unstable.

The radical Islamist group al Shabab is responsible for the series of terrorist attacks that have rocked Kenya in past few years. But the reality is that al Shabab is a shadow of what it once was. The al Qaeda-linked group has been pushed out of all major cities in Somalia and cut off from its financial lifelines. Its leaders have been decimated by drone attacks, internal strife, and defections. And that is why the group’s ability to easily attack within Kenya is so puzzling. For their part, Kenyan leaders have long contended that entities outside the government, namely Somalia-based fighters and the country’s minority Muslim population, are to blame. But the truth is that the main culprits are the culture and policies of the government itself.    

A boy is searched for weapons in front of a Catholic church in Garissa, April 5, 2015.

A boy is searched for weapons in front of a Catholic church in Garissa, April 5, 2015.

Take, for example, Kenya’s security services, which are acknowledged as the most corrupt institution in one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The entrenched system of nepotism, bribery, and tribal affiliation has led observers to conclude that, in practice, the forces decrease security more than increase it. Would-be attackers easily transverse Kenya’s 400-mile border with Somalia, which is dangerously porous because of the lack of personnel and resources. Infiltration is made even easier by border guards who are quick to take bribes. Half-hearted attempts at reform have met with spectacular failure. An initiative last year to recruit 10,000 new, and hopefully uncorrupt, police officers was halted due to reports that recruits had to bribe their way into being considered

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