ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cycles of Violence in East Africa

The unending wars in Somalia have resulted in the export of terror to other African countries.

The deadly attack at Nairobi’s Westgate mall by terrorists of the Somalian militia, Al Shabaab, which killed 62 people and injured more than a hundred was not the first of its kind. In 2010, there was a cross-border attack by the same militia in Kampala in Uganda; then it was suicide bombs that killed 74 and injured a similar number. Al Shabaab is also not the first radical Islamist group in Africa to have carried out such attacks. Other groups, operating in northern Mali and in Nigeria have attacked civilians in reprisals for being targeted by either foreign peacekeeping forces or their own state’s armed forces. Uganda formed one of the largest contingents in a regional peacekeeping force, the AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) and the 2010 Kampala bombings were clearly a message against that country’s involvement in Somalia. Kenyan forces had joined the AMISOM formally in 2012, continuing with their help to the Somalian government in its operations against the Al Shabaab in southern Somalia.

It is possible that Westgate was staged to portray an image of military effectiveness and create enough revulsion among Kenyans and Ugandans to force their governments to withdraw their forces from Somalia. But many observers who have been following the events in Somalia believe that these actions are only the last gasp of a failing militia that has been driven to its remote strongholds in the south of the war-torn country. It is also suggested that these are the fallout of an internal struggle in the loosely knit Al Shabaab militia. The leadership of the Al Shabaab has oscillated between local hardline Islamists and others who are led by the Al Qaida. But it is yet unclear which of these factions was responsible for the Nairobi and Kampala attacks and the precise message that was intended.

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