(eTN) – Lamu and Kiwayu Island have been swarmed by the international media since the killing of a British citizen David Tebbutt and the abduction of his wife, Judith, a few days ago. In the very first release, speculation was already raised, at a time when “official Kenya” still talked of “bandits”, that a group of Al Shabab Islamic militants could be behind the crime and what implication this could have for the region.
Al Shabab for long has tried, unsuccessfully it must be said, to draw neighboring Kenya into the conflict, and a series of border violations and the occasional exchange of gunfire across the border has still kept minds in Kenya cool enough to let reason prevail, keep the borders as secure and as well monitored as possible, considering the distances and remoteness of the frontier, and otherwise stay out of the Somali conflict and leave it to the African Union troops to deal with it.
The abduction, if indeed carried out by Al Shabab, and there is growing indication this may be so, however, has, at least for now, changed the game plan. Kenya’s security apparatus is in full pursuit along the stretch of coast between Kiwayu and the Somali border and UK Metropolitan Police experts. Special forces are also said to be in the area, with officials, of course, tightlipped over questions if such contingents may have been inserted into Somalia already to either cut off the escape route of the abductors and their victim or else engage in hot pursuit.
Aerial surveillance has also been stepped up, and it is understood that this extends into Somalia airspace to hopefully spot signs of the criminals and then direct operatives on the ground towards their position.
No demands have yet been received for ransom, nor has any group claimed responsibility, but this is thought to change when the abductors have reached their safe havens and can then make their demands.
Meanwhile, the Kiwayu Safari Village website has been temporarily disabled as a flood of hits would probably have crashed their servers anyway. The future of the very remote, very private, and very upmarket resort now hangs in the balance, as travel advisories are now declaring the entire stretch of pristine coastline between the Somali border to Lamu as “off limits,” very likely also affecting other such properties’ future occupancies. While clearly the Kenyan government will step up surveillance and their security presence along this 60-mile stretch of coastline between Lamu and the border, it will be a Herculean task to provide absolute security at all places at all times, leaving the resort owners to strategize over their own security arrangements and the cost of it, and if under such circumstances their continued presence is still financially viable.
One thing though seems almost sure, that the Somali conflict has come home to roost in Kenya and that the African Union and the UN are now at cross roads over their future engagement in Somalia and their strategy to pacify the lawless country at the Horn of Africa, drive Al Shabab into the ocean, and restore lasting order, which has been missing for the past 20 years.
And in closing, many of the critics of the erstwhile involvement by Ethiopia in Somalia, the first earnest effort to combat terrorism and Al Qaida-affiliated Islamic militant groups in Somalia, should now eat their words of criticism, applaud Ethiopia ,and support decisive action through the UN to prevent another Afghanistan like situation develop on the African continent, which could endanger the security of the entire region.