“I’m not sure they’re targeting only churches and Christians,” she said. “The last one was ordinary people who had come to a cafe to watch TV.”
Weighing the Government Response
During congressional testimony in February, Khataza Gondwe, team leader for Africa and the Middle East of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said that militant Islamism is gradually affecting countries along Africa’s eastern coast.
“In Somalia, the Islamist militia al Shabaab (Arabic for ‘the youth’) has attempted to enforce its version of Shari’a on areas it occupies and to eliminate Somali Christians, even in neighboring countries. Attacks on churches and security installations in Kenya have increased since October 2011, when its army joined international efforts to stabilize Somalia following cross-border abductions of foreign tourists from Kenyan soil by al Shabaab,” Gondwe said.
Reached at her office in the U.K. April 9, Gondwe said that a large-scale terrorist assault is an ever-present danger.
“Westgate was a wakeup call because there had been attacks even leading up to that,” she said. “The government is worried, clearly, and its actions have shown that it is worried.”
She suggested, though, that the government reaction may lead to further escalation. Participants in a recent attack were identified as sub-Saharan Africans, not Somalis, she said. “Soon after that came these attacks in Eastleigh, which is a predominantly Somali area, and immediately the government started to round up Somalis. However, even if you round up every single Somali in Kenya there is still that danger of converts to Islam who are of African ethnicity, and also people who are actually Kenyan citizens living in Mombasa who have bought into this al-Shabaab or extremist ideology.
“So there’s a danger to what they’re doing and the knee-jerk reaction targeting people who are easily identifiable as being ‘the other.’… These groups thrive on victimhood…and it will play into the narrative of al-Shabaab’s vision of Christian nations like Kenya…having to be resisted.”
Said Gondwe, “I can understand why the government reacted drastically, but it wasn’t the wisest reaction they could have undertaken.”
John Burger is a freelance writer covering mostly topics in Catholicism. He has worked as a reporter an
d editor at the National Catholic Register and Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York, and his articles have appeared in Human Life Review, Legatus and Family Foundations, as well as online at Fathers for Good and Catholic World Report.