We should not relax guard: threat persists

Sunday November 24 2013

 

By Saumu Jumanne, The Citizen, Saumu.j@gmail.com

If you thought that Westgate Mall siege by Al-Shabaab gunmen who killed at least 67 people in September in Nairobi, Kenya, would be a lesson for managers and owners of malls in Tanzania to increase security, you are dead wrong.

The best known mall in Dar es Salaam, Mlimani City, for a few days after the siege introduced security checks and afterwards it was back to business as usual.

It was reported that the inspections made the number of customers decrease tremendously, and were called off.

Go to the rest of the malls in the country’s business capital, there are no security checks at all. Yet, the police have caught up with suspected Al-Shabaab trainees in Mtwara and Tanga after the Nairobi attack.

The Tanga story is extremely sad; it was reported that about 70 suspects, including children as young as 4 years of age, were caught being indoctrinated in Al-Shabaab ideologies.

Who knows if those kids at the end of the day could have been used as suicide bombers? What terrorist activities were the Al-Shabaab recruits being prepared for?

Would they have operated in Tanzania or outside Tanzania? Who is recruiting and hosting them? The public was left with more questions than answers.There is cause to fear that terrorists could be preparing to make headway into our motherland. The police have done commendable job in Mtwara and Tanga cases, but is it enough? What about other regions?

Looking back-in 2011, there were media reports linking Al-Shabaab terrorism with poaching in the case of Kenya.

According to elephantleague.org in 2011/12 there is proven involvement of Al-Shabaab in trafficking ivory through Kenya, “a trade that could be supplying up to 40 per cent of the funds needed to keep them in business.”

Elephantleague.org reports that Al-Shabaab has been actively buying and selling ivory as a means of funding their militant operations.

The government recently suspended the anti –poaching campaign - Operation Tokomeza after complaints by the citizenry about their properties being destroyed in the operation, and even loss of human lives. On the other hand, after the suspension, over 1,000 pieces of elephant tusks were confiscated in Zanzibar habour. You can guess how many elephants were killed.

No wonder the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania (TCT) released a statement asking the government to reconsider the suspension, as it would only give poachers and their godfathers time to reorganize and plan.

Could there be any link between the rise in poaching activities and rise in Al-Shabaab activities in the motherland?

If in Kenya poaching is financing Al-Shabaab, why not in Tanzania? Thorough investigations are needed but more so, poaching must be stopped.

How come “operation kimbunga” ( a special operation to ensure illegal immigrants are pushed out of the country) has succeeded but “Operation Tokomeza” did not work?

Tanzania’s enduring spirit is a hallmark of peace. Terrorism and whatever is associated with Al-Shabaab is a threat to that peace.

And so is high level poaching that threatens the tourism sub-sector and other crimes.

President Jakaya Kikwete is on record as saying the problem of poaching had reached frightening levels.

As a nation, we must do whatever is necessary to keep our peace; this means containing terrorism and poaching, as well as other crimes.

In the case of terrorism, the public must be prepared to pay the price, including undergoing security checks at shopping malls and all major buildings that are frequently visited by members of the public in big numbers.