Nairobi, MEA Risk East Africa Office | Analyst: Musyoka wa Kyendo | May 26th, 2015 |  Inter-tribal terrorism has now become the largest cause of instability in East Africa.  Inter-tribal terrorism is often camouflaged as cattle rustling because it involves pastoral communities. Camouflaged terrorism involves subtle political decisions to uproot communities from their homeland with a view to displacing them.

It is emerging  especially in Kenya where the wars  in the north of the country between the Pokot, Samburu and Turkana communities  are more about grabbing opportunities  in the newly discovered oil and other energy sources. The fights have expanded from the occasional exchange of fire between pastoralists stealing cows from one another to full-scale combats that include the decimation of whole families.  Women and children, who used to be spared by such violence are now targets.  Consequently, this form of terrorism scored 2.03/5.00 on the MEA Risk CIncidents index.  This score indicates that this form of terrorism is a major cause of instability in East Africa region.

Inter-tribal and inter-clan violence have cost more lives than terrorism. In Sudan and South Sudan, inter-tribal violence especially among pastoralists cost 380 lives during the first quarter of 2015. That is twice the number of lives lost to terrorism.  Region-wide (East Africa), inter-tribal wars cost 499 lives during the first quarter or 2.5 times more than terrorism. Consequently, this form of terrorism is the leading threat to stability in East Africa. Local terrorism, categorized as criminality, scored 2.03/5.00 on the MEA Risk CIncidents Index.

In the East Africa region, the most active terror group is Somalia-based Al-Shabaab, an organization historically affiliated to Al Qaeda. The organization is well known – and dreaded – because of its liberal use of explosives including IEDs and VMIEDs and high caliber guns. The terror group is media savvy as it chooses targets that attract massive publicity- and consequently cause fear. However, the frequency of its acts and their intensity tend to score below that of Criminality and Security & Defense incidents recorded by MEA Risk’s Critical Incidents Tracker.

In general, the frequency of terrorism events is declining in East Africa region, reflecting the weakening of Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab has in the recent past come under intense pressure from the Africa Union mandated peacekeeping force going by the acronym AMISOM.

In our view of Al-Shabaab impact on the region, we use the ratio of fatalities as a proxy to measure the level of strength of the combatants in the conflict in Somalia- Al shabaab Vs AMISOM. In the first quarter, Al-Shabaab militants killed 105 people mainly in Somalia. In return the security forces eliminated 446 alleged members of Al-Shabaab.  This produces a ratio of 4:1 that is for every civilian or troop killed by Al-shabaab insurgents, the military eliminate four. Although difficult to defeat, militarily, the insurgents have suffered a massive losses in terms of men, arms, territory and economic assets.  These losses have disoriented the group which has resulted in fewer and seemingly ineffective attacks whose frequency has fallen to 78 incidents in the first quarter of 2015 in East Africa.

East Africa terrorism is under intense pressure from aggressive military actions. Al- shabaab, the most relevant terror group in East Africa has suffered massive losses since October 2013. It has been uprooted from its strongholds on the Indian Ocean coast denying it access to the outside world since all ports in Somalia are in the hands of hostile forces. Inside Somalia, many of its camps have been destroyed by AMISOM.  Its leadership also has come under attack by US drones, resulting in the death of various commanders including its leader Ali Godane.

As Al-Shabaab weakens as a terrorist group, a new form of terror, internal in nature, is emerging as the next threat to stability in East Africa. Traditional cattle rustling is now moving to the domain of domestic terrorism as a result of the discovery of crude oil and other green energy sources such as geothermal wells in Kenya. Economic control of energy-related assets is the motivation behind attempts to displace some communities by force. As more crude oil discoveries are made, terrorism, including state sponsored terrorism in Sudan, is set to grow as communities jostle for local resources.

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