Terror in Lamu: Why Marwa could be proved right after all

It was always in the cards that al-Shabaab militants would step up their nefarious activities in those tense moments when the attention of everyone was riveted on the forthcoming General Election. It should have been, and most likely was, obvious to those tasked with keeping this country secure that terrorist attacks, which had dwindled after a fashion, would grow in intensity and frequency as the election approached.

The reason this should have been expected is that terrorists are not merely bloody-minded cyphers carrying out murderous orders from some mad Mullah holed up in some den in lawless Somalia; they are often intelligent, techno-savvy operatives who plan their activities with warlike precision and know exactly when to strike – when no one is looking.


The recent audacious ambush, abduction bid, and shooting of Principal Secretary Mariam el Maawy indicates a high level of surveillance and precise timing. Very few people would waylay a specific convoy in broad daylight. The incident is shrouded in secrecy presumably due to national security, but being the first of its kind against a government official, it raises a great many questions.

One would like to know, for instance, whether the ambush random or planned? If it is the former, it indicates clearly that insecurity has got out of hand in that part of the country, but if it is the latter, why pick on an official who has no demonstrable links with the country’s security apparatus? It appears the abductors knew exactly who they were after and why.


The whole thing sounds suspicious. Two things spring to mind here. Either the whole abduction was an “ordinary” kidnapping for ransom by al-Shabaab elements which went awry, or it had nothing to do with the terrorists. After all, when this group carries out such an attack, the one thing they crave is publicity, and they could have claimed responsibility – they snuffed out five innocent lives.

The second possibility, which was raised by Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa, to much social media derision, was that the ambush was yet another incident in a Mpeketoni-style pre-election spate of violence to flush out voters from upcountry who may influence the election outcome. The blunt Mr Marwa claimed the terrorist incidents in Lamu can be linked to jittery politicians trying to ensure that settlers from upcountry fled their homes.


I hold no brief for Mr Marwa, but because he is in charge of security issues in the whole county, he must be privy to intelligence that implicates politicians with funding homegrown terrorists to scare away their opponents. Violence against “outsiders” is a well-tried old-fashioned tactic during election years. The most scaring thing is that these politicians are not using crazed drug-addicts to cause mayhem; they are using highly-trained professionals who may or may not be members of al-Shabaab. Just who are these people?


One reason Mr Marwa’s take is believable is that just a few hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta delivered a stern warning to the perpetrators of the numerous terror attacks in the area, yet another attack on a General Service Unit camp nearby was just barely foiled. It beats reason how groups of heavily armed men, some carrying rocket launchers, can move from one place to another slaughtering innocent Kenyans.

The audacity and impunity are mind-boggling and our security forces must regain the upper hand – starting from the top. It appears the same warlords responsible for the 2014 Mpeketoni attacks during which 60 Kenyans were slaughtered are still at it, this time with renewed fervour. Another massacre cannot be ruled out before the election.


Back in the 19th century, an Oxford University don known as the Rev William Archibald Spooner became famous for unwittingly mixing up the sounds of two words in a sentence, often leading to humorous effects. Today, July 22, he is celebrated in the English speaking world for giving to the world what came to be known as spoonerisms.

In the last few weeks, Kenyans have had a chance to enjoy their own version of spoonerism supplied by the Machakos gubernatorial candidate, Ms Wavinya Ndeti, who transposed an old Swahili saying, yaliyopita si ndwele, into the nonsensical yaliyo ndwele sipite. Many so loved the coinage that when an enterprising musician turned it into a song, it went viral on the Net. Who says Kenyans don’t have a sense of humour?

Magesha Ngwiri is a consulting editor.

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