Who’s Behind Kenya’s Latest Wave of Terror?

How It Works
June 17 2014 2:14 PM

Who’s Behind Kenya’s Latest Wave of Terror?

Par7909799
Locals block the road with a barricade as they protest the rising insecurity following the killings in Mpeketoni on June 17, 2014.

Photo by Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

Kenya is undergoing its worst wave of terrorist violence since the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead last September.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

On Monday night gunmen killed at least 50 people in attacks on the coastal city of Mpeketoni, where crowds were gathered to watch a World Cup game. About 24 hours later, 15 more people were killed and at least 12 women were abducted in the coastal village of Poromoko.

Advertisement

Al-Shabab, the Somali Islamist rebel group that also carried out the Westgate attack, has claimed responsibility for both attacks, demanding that Nairobi pull its troops out of Somalia.

Oddly, though, despite Shabab’s claim of responsibility, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta denies that it is responsible, blaming "local political networks" for the violence.

Kenyatta, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, has been publicly clashing in recent days with opposition leader Raila Odinga, an ethnic Luo. Tension between the groups was at the center of the wave of violence that followed the disputed election of 2007. Kenyatta is currently under indictment at the International Criminal Court for his role in the postelection violence.

The presidents didn’t name any suspects or say which groups were targeted by the attacks, but there is a recent history of brutal ethnic violence in Kenya’s coastal region.

The BBC suggests that it’s possible that “local ethnic Somalis or Oromos may have targeted members of the president's Kikuyu community and tried to divert the blame by waving al-Shabab flags.” The target fits with Shabab’s MO—during the last World Cup, in 2010, the group bombed a crowd watching the finals in Uganda, another country that had send troops to Somalia—but the tactics, which involved killing only men while abducting women, would be new for the group.

Of course, it’s also possible that it was Shabab and the president is attempting to deflect blame onto his political rivals.

The fact that these both seem like plausible scenarios is itself pretty telling.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

How Did the Royals Win Despite Bunting So Many Times? Bunting Is a Terrible Strategy.

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?