Somalia, Kenya and neighboring East African nations continue to combat the al Qaeda linked terrorist group al-Shabaab. Though government troops and African Union peacekeepers have driven the terrorists from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu and other areas of the country, they still pose a major threat from terrorist actions that have cost hundreds of innocent lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Throughout this fight, the United States, along with others in the international community, has provided training and other support for the region’s security forces. The area’s peace and stability are vital to the security of all of Africa, and for the United States, too.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently travelled to Kenya to confirm that support. He noted that the recent tragedies in Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Mombasa and elsewhere may cause momentary turmoil, grief and chaos. But in the end, instead of dividing us, they bring us closer together, and they will never shake our commitment to human decency, dignity and peace.
Defeating terrorism requires a long-term effort. It requires a comprehensive strategy. Border security and law enforcement are a big part of the equation, both of which must factor respect for basic human rights and the rule of law. That effort must have the support of religious authorities, educators and citizens who will discredit hateful doctrines and help people to build stronger and more resilient communities. The success of this strategy depends on building trust between the authorities and local communities.
America has learned in our own fight against terrorism that we have to be true to democratic values, not just because it’s right, but also because it’s the only sure path to security over the long term. The more united and proud of its institutions that a country is, the stronger it is going to be in fighting back against the threats of terror.
The power to fight back, however, includes something that may even be more powerful than the military and law enforcement, and it may make a bigger difference in the end. That is our unity in the face of the threat and the character of our ideals.