Kenya wall to ‘keep out’ al-shabaab

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

LON­DON — Kenya is go­ing to build a wall. Not just any wall, but a “sep­a­ra­tion bar­rier”, to em­ploy the eu­phemism coined by Is­rael to de­scribe the tow­er­ing, snaking struc­ture that now sep­a­rates it from Pales­tine’s West Bank.

Kenya’s ver­sion will be built along sec­tions of its no­to­ri­ously por­ous bor­der with So­ma­lia. A phys­i­cal ren­der­ing in bricks, mor­tar and barbed wire of a line on the map.

“Con­struc­tion works will begin soon. We ex­pect to have fin­ished the project be­fore the end of the year,” said Lamu county gover­nor Issa Ti­mamy, as re­ported in the Daily Na­tion.

Fur­ther de­tails on the project are not yet forth­com­ing, and Lamu county have not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment.

All that is known is that the wall will be erected along the sec­tions of bor­der near the coast, and that its in­tent will be to keep out il­le­gal im­mi­grants from So­ma­lia as well as danger­ous al-shabaab mil­i­tants.

A threat felt keenly af­ter al-shabaab claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the West­gate mall attack in Nairobi in 2013.

“This is where im­mi­grants have been ar­rested try­ing to cross into the coun­try or hav­ing al­ready en­tered through the bor­der in Lamu.

This is a good idea and we sup­port it be­cause we be­lieve it will go a long way to se­cure this re­gion and in­deed, the coun­try as a whole,” said Ti­mamy.

Walls are a com­fort­ing propo­si­tion. There is some­thing re­as­sur­ing about shut­ting the ev­ery­one else out and pre­tend­ing as you go to sleep at night that the world’s prob­lems are not yours; that the bad guys can’t get you.

But how does this the­ory trans­late on to the in­ter­na­tional stage? Can coun­tries re­ally shut them­selves off from their neigh­bours?

Can car­to­graph­i­cal bor­ders be­come man-made bar­ri­ers?

The most fa­mous ex­am­ple, of many, is the Great Wall of China, an un­par­al­leled feat of en­gi­neer­ing de­signed to keep the Mon­gol hordes at bay.

Then there was Hadrian’s Wall, a line of bricks across north­ern Eng­land meant to pro­tect the Ro­mans from the Scots.

More re­cently, the Ber­lin wall di­vided a city, keep­ing West Ger­man cap­i­tal­ism from diluting East Ger­many’s com­mu­nist revo­lu­tion.

To­day, there are still plenty of bar­ri­ers di­vid­ing na­tions and soci- eties. In Cyprus, one runs along the Green Line that divides the Turk­ish north from the Greek south.

On Malaysia’s north­ern bor­der with Thai­land there’s one to keep out cheap but il­le­gal Thai labour.

There’s one in Saudi Ara­bia, on its Ye­meni bor­der, to keep Ye­men’s in­se­cu­rity from spilling over.

In the US too, sev­eral bar­ri­ers have been erected to pre­vent ille- gal move­ment across the Mex­i­can bor­der.

Most fa­mous, how­ever, is Is­rael’s sep­a­ra­tion bar­rier — nearly 800km long, it al­ter­nates be­tween rows of barbed wire and elec­tri­fied fenc­ing and eight-me­tre high con­crete walls.

Is­rael de­scribes it as “the only thing that can min­imise the in­fil­tra­tion of th­ese male and fe­male sui­cide bombers”; oth­ers call it the apartheid wall, an ar­chi­tec­tural ex­pres­sion of Is­rael’s sub­ju­ga­tion of Pales­tine.

Does it work? Ei­ther way, the real ques­tion that Kenyan of­fi­cials will be ask­ing is: has it worked? Ex­perts are di­vided.

“Is­raelis would say that it’s been ef­fec­tive — not­ing that in the three years be­fore it was built, sui­cide bombers killed 293 of their cit­i­zens; in the three years af­ter it went up, that num­ber dropped to 64.

Since its con­struc­tion, ter­ror­ist at­tacks have dwin­dled,” writes Rick Steves in the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

“Pales­tini­ans would counter by say­ing that this decline is not be­cause of the wall, but be­cause Pales­tine, its pres­i­dent, its se­cu­rity forces, and its peo­ple have all re­alised that vi­o­lence is a los­ing strat­egy.

“Pales­tini­ans as­sure me that if any­one re­ally wants to get through the wall (which is far from fin­ished), it’s very easy to do,” he adds.

This, how­ever, has come at a cost, and not just in fi­nan­cial terms (on that front: con­struc­tion was an es­ti­mated $2 mil­lion (M21 mil­lion per kilo­me­tre, while main­te­nance is $260 mil­lion per year).

By cut­ting off Is­raelis from Pales­tini­ans so com­pletely, and vice versa, it has had a marked im­pact on how those so­ci­eties in­ter­act, one which could have trou­bling longterm im­pli­ca­tions for peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.

His­tor­i­cally, walls are never a long term fix — and their ef­fec­tive­ness has al­ways been du­bi­ous. The Great Wall of China, im­pres­sive as it was, be­came ir­rel­e­vant when China’s rul­ing elite, con­fronted with a peas­ant re­bel­lion, in­vited the Mon­gols in.

The Ber­lin Wall couldn’t iso­late East Ger­mans from the lure of a bet­ter life, and even­tu­ally in was torn down, brick by brick.

The bor­der fence sep­a­rat­ing Mex­ico and the US is so por­ous that one doc­u­men­tary-maker re­peat­edly crossed it il­le­gally — once dressed as Osama bin Laden. — Guardian


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