The war against terrorism cannot be won if the public is not involved at the grassroots, head of counter terrorism centre in Kenya Martin Kimani has said.
He added that besides reducing the time taken by security officers to respond to terror incidents, citizens must be involved in identifying threats beforehand.
“We have forums that bring citizens and security officers together and they are able to sit down and discuss what the issues are right at the local level; issues like where recruitment is going on, where is there incitement. And a lot of the time, citizens are ahead of the security services because they understand who these people are,” said Dr Kimani.
He spoke in Chicago, United States, during a forum to discuss terror threats facing cities in the world today.
“The threat, when it comes to a terrorist attack itself, the damage to life and property is far less than car accidents in any global city. The real threat is the rapture it causes in social, political and cultural bonds,” Dr Kimani said.
He went on: “So preparedness is not necessarily the number of armed men you have within the incident point but what kind of early warnings do you have about the promotion of hatred and division.
“Where hatred is growing, eventually violence will follow. So, if your point of responsiveness and resilience is response at point of violence, then that is not effective,” he said.
Dr Kimani also told the global audience that terrorism is not a problem of a single country alone.
He lauded police response when terrorists attacked in London.
“Terrorism is mass murder with a media strategy. So we must go further, beyond response and it is very difficult for democratic societies because we have rights of association.
“There is also a responsibility to report but the media should have a way of how to police itself in reporting,” noted Dr Kimani.
In London, police were at the scene of attack within eight minutes after the alert was sent and killed the terrorists.
In Northern Kenya, a wave of terror attacks has led to death of dozens of security officers and civilians.
The attacks are blamed on Al-Shabaab militants who are using improvised explosive devices and security experts have warned of a local and ominous angle to the problem.
Some 32 people, including 18 policemen and soldiers, have been killed since May 16.