Writer wrong on Ethiopia, terror war

The attack on Garissa University College was a cowardly act that claimed the lives of over 140 innocent students.

In solidarity with the Kenyan State and people, students in Addis Ababa University and seven other higher institutions remembered their Kenya brethren with a candle vigil.

Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom expressed Ethiopia’s resolve to fight terrorism and a willingness to cooperate with and assist the Government of Kenya in any way possible against the scourge.

Since the atrocity in Garissa, many analysts and reporters have contrasted Ethiopia and Kenya’s war against terrorism. On April 10, 2015, The Standard’s Mwaura Samora wrote a commentary: “Kenya can’t, won’t be Ethiopia”.

The gist of his piece is that Ethiopia’s success against terrorism can be attributed to a tightly controlled society and a repressive regime, whereas that Kenya’s failure can be explained by an ill-prepared security apparatus and incoherent State.

Mr Samora’s arguments have the following flaws:

First, there is inherent contradiction in arguing that Kenya is suffering and at the same time shouldn’t learn from countries that have relatively been successful in fighting terror. Mr Samora seems to underestimate the importance of drawing policy lessons from each other.

Ethiopia has been fighting Al-Itahad and other terrorist organisations long before the birth of Al-Shabaab and sharing its experience with Kenya and other brotherly neighbour countries should be encouraged.

The fight against terror should be collectively done by countries of the region.

Al-Shabaab poses a threat to all.

Second, Mr Samora’s assumption that Kenya is a soft target for terrorists is not entirely accurate for two reasons: (1) Kenya, despite suffering multiple attacks for the past few years, has indeed thwarted many attacks; and (2) Almost all the countries in the Horn of Africa region, including Ethiopia, have been victims of terror attacks regardless of the system of government under which these countries are governed.

Third, Mr Samora’s argument that repression leads to success in fighting terrorism is mythical and misleading.

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