NAIROBI, KENYA— A top United Nations official visiting Nairobi has urged Kenyans and Somalis not to relent in the battle against Somali militant group al-Shabab. The group continues to threaten and attack security forces and civilians in both countries.
As Kenya and Somalia plot out ways to fight terrorism and subdue al-Shabab, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson says the terrorist threat is not only about killing and destruction, but also a threat to basic rights of the people.
“We have to see this threat as a threat also to the values and the principles that we stand for, both laid down in your constitution and laid down in something I always carry with me - the U.N. Charter. This is the threat to the basic principles that are in here, and if we start to diminish these rights and the principles that are in here, they could say they could have succeeded,” said Eliasson.
Kenya has boosted security in Nairobi shopping malls following text messages sent to shoppers warning them to keep away from some upscale shopping centers.
Last month, al-Shabab carried out its deadliest attack on Kenyan soil at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, killing more than 60 civilians and injuring about 175.
The assault showed the al-Qaida-linked group is still a threat in the region, even though it has lost much of the territory it once controlled in Somalia to a multi-national African force and Somali government troops.
Eliasson said the United Nations hopes to see the al-Shabab threat diminish through a concerted military effort and the stabilization of Somalia.
He also said the international community should help Somalia in building credible institutions so that youths can see hope and leave the dangerous terror activities they are involved in.
“The threat will diminish by the fact that we will also in the government and all others who can help - bilateral donors, United Nations and others - can finally show the people of Somalia that there is [a] peaceful future, that there is health clinics being set up, there is a well being drilled, schools started. They need to see that peace,” said Eliasson.
Eliasson added that with these institutions in place, it would be hard for Somali youths to be lured into deadly terrorist activities.