The Star (Kenya)

West’s rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion

- PA­TRICK GATHARA @gathara Car­toon­ist and com­men­ta­tor Terrorism · Society · Discrimination · Politics · Human Rights · United Kingdom · Kenya · London · Nottingham · Eastern Province · George W. Bush · U.S. government · British Colonial Office · Gulag

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by De­clas­si­fied UK has re­vealed that for more than 15 years, US and UK se­cu­rity agen­cies have been wag­ing a covert war in Kenya.

ey have been arm­ing and train­ing a se­cret para­mil­i­tary team that has com­mit­ted atroc­i­ties against civil­ians and vi­o­lated Kenyan laws un­der the guise of fight­ing ter­ror­ism.

While the re­port does im­por­tant work in doc­u­ment­ing this, the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Kenya and the West and its bru­tal­ity is hardly news. Re­ports of Kenyan agen­cies work­ing with their Western coun­ter­parts to dis­ap­pear, ren­di­tion, tor­ture and mur­der lo­cal ter­ror sus­pects are le­gion, and have ap­peared reg­u­larly in Kenyan and in­ter­na­tional press for decades.

How­ever, the De­clas­si­fied UK re­port brings to mind star­tling sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the way the global war on ter­ror is waged and the Bri­tish

ef­fort to put down what came to be known as the Mau Mau up­ris­ing nearly 70 years ago.

e Bri­tish sought to paint the re­bel­lion as a re­flec­tion of the in­nate sav­agery and prim­i­tiv­ity of Black Africans and to deny the fight­ers in the forests had any le­git­i­mate griev­ances or prac­ti­cal vi­sions of the fu­ture.

e press was in­un­dated with pro­pa­ganda gen­er­ated by the Colo­nial Of­fice in Lon­don.

“All we heard was how sav­age Mau Mau was,” Caro­line Elkins, au­thor of the in­flu­en­tial book on colo­nial atroc­i­ties dur­ing that pe­riod, Bri­tish Gu­lag, quotes John Not­ting­ham, then a young colo­nial officer, as say­ing. “Just com­pletely atavis­tic, and some­how had to be got­ten rid of, re­gard­less of how this was done.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish, the con­flict pit­ted the peace­ful, pro­gres­sive and en­light­ened forces of White colo­nial­ism against the dark, evil, foul and se­cre­tive filth of the de­graded

Mau Mau. e name was an at­tempt to as­so­ciate the move­ment with the idea of sav­agery. It did not orig­i­nate with the fight­ers. In fact, they ac­tively re­jected it. In a 1953 Char­ter, in­tro­duc­ing the move­ment, Dedan Ki­mathi, the leader, de­clared: “We re­ject be­ing called [Mau Mau or] ter­ror­ists for de­mand­ing our peo­ple’s rights. [It is deroga­tory]. We are the Kenya Land [and] Free­dom Army.”

Com­pare this with the de­scrip­tions of those today fight­ing against Western dom­i­na­tion of Mid­dle East­ern so­ci­eties as anachro­nis­tic, long-bearded, cave-dwelling atavists de­fined by their bru­tal­ity rather than by the aims they es­pouse.

ere is an en­trenched re­sis­tance to the idea that those who es­pouse a vi­o­lent over­throw of the cur­rent world or­der can ei­ther have le­git­i­mate rea­sons for do­ing so or es­pouse ra­tio­nal al­ter­na­tives to their ex­ploita­tion.

is re­sis­tance man­i­fests in the ten­dency to em­ploy sim­plis­tic, bi­nary views of con­flict and the zero-sum, with-us-or-against-us rhetoric pi­o­neered by the Ge­orge W Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

It is also ev­i­dent in the idea of

“rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion”, which seeks to paint a re­sort to vi­o­lence as a form of men­tal ill­ness or the re­sult of brain­wash­ing. In the 1950s, the Bri­tish ef­forts against the KLFA fo­cused on the se­cret oathing cer­e­monies that the fight­ers used to re­cruit their mem­bers.

Today, the talk of “de-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion” sim­i­larly de­nies the le­git­i­macy of griev­ances. e anger many feel at Western poli­cies and ag­gres­sions to­wards their coun­tries and so­ci­eties are eas­ily dis­missed and rather than fo­cus on the op­pres­sive poli­cies, de-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion frames the ac­tions of the vic­tims as the prob­lem.

To recog­nise the le­git­i­macy of griev­ances is not to de­fend the tac­tics of ter­ror (though it will in­evitably be por­trayed as such by some).

e re­sort to such vi­o­lence should, how­ever, be un­der­stood within its full con­text, and that con­text in­cludes recog­ni­tion of the vi­o­lence of op­pres­sion that in­cites it.

e bru­tal tac­tics used by the West and its al­lies may en­joy short-term suc­cess but this will come at the long-term ex­pense of en­trenched in­sta­bil­ity, hos­til­ity, fear and con­flict.

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