The Western role in the Westgate massacre

The Westgate Mall - after the siege, Nairobi Kenya

By Tom Castle

The massacre of shoppers at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi has been followed by a series of bloody attacks against both the immigrant Somali community in Kenya and targeted assassination of Muslim clerics by the security forces in Kenya. In the international sphere the US has also launched a number of raids against alleged architects of a series of terrorist attacks.

This stands in sharp contrast to the conciliatory words of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the wake of the al-Shabaab attack which specifically ruled out blaming either Somalis or Muslims and argued that the problem was one of terrorism. The response by the Kenyan security forces follows widespread criticism of their role in the siege, ranging from incompetence to looting.

The Kenyan Defence Forces are deeply entwined with the US Africom military command. They are in effect its principal ground forces in East Africa. It was the decision to send the KDF into Somalia 2 years ago to tackle al-Shabaab which has led to the predicted reprisals against Kenya. It was an intervention that the LA Times described as ‘a risky venture of more value to the US than to Kenya.’

Al-Shabaab is deeply entrenched in Somali society, which helps to explain its ability to repel the latest attack by US Navy Seals. It is the more radical successor force of the Islamic Courts Union which had brought some peace to southern Somalia and which was ousted from the region in a Western-backed military operation in 2006 with Ethiopian troops at that time taking the lead. These repeated foreign military interventions have fuelled popular and increasingly militant resistance.

The imperialist powers play a thoroughly negative role. Led by the US they act militarily against forces which in any way conflict with their interests as the varied bourgeois nationalists forces such as Gaddafi, Morsi or Assad. But they have nothing positive to offer and even ostracise governments which dare to prioritise increasing trade with China. This is the basis of the US hostility to the current Kenyan government and the reason the International Criminal Court in The Hague has been activated against it.

The destruction of bourgeois nationalist regimes and the obstacles placed in the way of economic development create a vacuum which is increasingly filled by Al Qaeda-linked forces. In Kenyan the danger is that society is being riven along sectarian lines in an effort to pursue a failing international project of the US and its allies. Without increased aid and trade Somalia has no prospect of becoming more like Kenya. The greater risk is that Kenya becomes more like Somalia under the impact of Western policy.