UNDERSTANDING THE TERRORIST WITHIN US
I am currently a very terrified individual; because the levels of hypocrisy in the world are a notch higher. As we bay for the blood of terrorists across the globe, I am tempted to ask whether we know real terrorists. The real terrorists are not out there, the real terrorists are in us and with us. To deal with terrorism, we shall have to understand terrorists and what makes them tick. At the heart of any terrorist operation is the victim mentality. A terrorist is an individual who feels he or a given cause has not been given due consideration due to some people advancing their cause. A terrorist believes that this world can be a better place; if only things were in a given way. I consider extortionist groups like the Mungiki in Kenya to have the terrorist mentality.
Preconditions for Terrorism
For a terrorist group to arise there must be certain preconditions. In often cases, the precondition is a social injustice or a perceived injustice. In the face of such an injustice, the one who develops a terror mentality is one who perceives self as the victim. The victim has to feel helpless enough to imagine that only self sacrifice will deliver desired reparation or restitution. In our Kenyan situation, the youth feeling neglected in a world of affluence organizes themselves into extortionist groupings. When ODM rallied people to coalesce around the land issue in the rift valley, the people responded because historical injustices were demonstrated.
Hierarchy of Terrorists
There is a hierarchy of terrorists; there are other ways of categorizing terrorists but let me offer three basic categories. Among terrorist groups, there are the master minds, the financiers, the foot soldiers and the sympathizers. The different categories of terrorists are motivated by different sets of needs.
The masterminds are people who either believe or do not utterly believe in the cause. Whether they believe or not, they are driven by the desire for ATTENTION. All they want is recognition and to get the kick from the mayhem caused by terrorist activities. These are largely psychotic individuals who are driven by an animalistic desire to see humanity in pain or in surrender begging for mercy. They are intelligent people; they strategize and put in place mechanisms for inflicting massive pain that would cause the other to surrender. In the post election violence experienced in Kenya, the master minds hatched plans of how families would be uprooted from their homes. The idea was to make given tribes pay for historical injustices. People do not just wake up one day and start slaughtering others in a systematic or organized manner; the organization is the work of a mastermind. In retaliatory attacks, the master minds used all possible force and all available crude forces. They attacked strategically the towns where they would find people of other tribes such as Naivasha. The mastermind is thus driven by a desire to prove a point, to prove that he or she can.
Financiers normally are individuals with resources and leading normal lives. However, they sympathize with the cause of the group of victims. In some cases, financiers are not keen on the cause of victim group but rather the benefits accruing from their distressing activities. Arms producers are happy with terrorism to the extent deepens the arms market. Some business people were happy with the activities of extortionist groups in Kenya because their business flourished in such circumstances. Some politicians willingly financed post election activities in Kenya because the violence would contribute to great personal gain if the opponents were subdued. Stories have been shared of politicians who hire the services of gangs; recent killings in Bungoma were masterminded by some unknown individuals but definitely, they were bankrolled by politicians. The financiers are often driven by one the need to safeguard their interests, to secure their business, their power positions.
The Foot Soldiers
The foot soldiers are the most unfortunate part of the terrorist network. They do the actual donkey work and ensure and master plan by masterminds is executed to the letter. What would motivate one to work with others in such a heinous way? Foot soldiers often do not have a will; their free will is either quashed by poverty, unjust acts in the past or pure brainwashing. Those driven by poverty are in to make something for their families. The desire to meet the basic needs of those they love makes them susceptible to rationalizations. The masterminds provide rationalization; for instance, demonstrating to the people in rift valley that their poverty was as a result of their lands going to Kikuyus was not such a hard endeavour. It is not very hard to brainwash the poor that their problems are a result of the activities of the greed rich. It is not hard to brainwash a young Muslim that Christians are out to finish Islam but entrenching their wrong values in Muslim countries. For the young people, couple opportunity to influence through the terror acts with the promise that dying as a mujahedeen is dying for God, to save Islam; they will bite the hook and the fishing line. It is not hard
At the end of the day, the divide and rule strategy has been the most effective strategy of influencing and conquering human minds and hearts in human history. It is effective because it works on one of the major human needs, which is the need to belong. We all need an identity and we want to belong somewhere. Identity is important because it provides us with a sense of security. Masterminds have always worked on created an “us” against “them” situation. In Kenya in the run up to the 2007 elections, this played out very well. The PNU side painted Raila like a devil. The Kikuyus were told that Raila was the greatest threat to their survival. If he got the presidency, Kikuyus would suffer. Their businesses would be taken away, they would loose everything and the Kenyan economy would flop because a Jaluo can not manage an economy. Jaluos were painted for the ordinary Kikuyu as being disdainful people, lazy, boisterous and empty gongs. Kibaki was painted as the saviour of the Kenyan economy who held a promise for the whole country.
On the other hand, ODM supporters were whipped into a group of victims. Lists of government appointment and historical injustices were unleashed to demonstrate the tyranny by kikuyu over time. It was time to end all these and the only way of making things right was to put Kikuyu in their rightful place. By the time a young ODM supporter had finished feeding on all the Us against them rhetoric, he was ready to do anything for the cause.
There are many who do not become foot shoulders but they sympathize with the cause of terrorists because they identify with them. There are many Muslims in Kenya who feel Muslims are targeted in the war against terror. Some strongly believe the extremist groups have a point. Others just feel what is happening is not fair because America, Kenya and other countries engaged in war against terror are targeting their brothers and sisters.
The Vicious Cycle
This people who see themselves as courageous victims out to liberate themselves from dominion keep striking. They commit cowardly acts like the recent Westgate siege. They find a lot of pleasure in doing it because they see it as an act of David stinging Goliath. In response, the innocent people who are stung cry out for justice. In response, those in power issue threats and actually follow through with action aimed at quashing the terrorist. While surveillance and quashing radicals before they carry out their acts of cowardice is important, we have to invest more on understanding these radicals and responding to their needs. To the extent Kenya does not pay attention to social justice issues, there are more internal terrorism risks than external terror. It all starts in prejudices breeding prejudices against certain people; the prejudices lead to stereotypes that everyone laughs about but which inform the social interaction dynamic, the stereotypes become entrenched through social injustices based on them e.g. denying some jobs basically because people of their tribe are considered too arrogant. Those who feel the injustice then begin to find violent ways of correcting the prejudice and acts of terrorism e.g. activities of extortionist groups become the order of day.
We have to demonstrate to these cowards that we actually understand them. We have to unceasingly seek ways of offering them the Olive branch; which does not mean yielding to their demands but demonstrating in what way their logic is wrong. Someone tell our leaders that tough talk only consolidates violence. As followers of Jesus, we forgive the misguided Jihadists because they do not know what they do! We should not give up on demonstrating that we understand their point of view! We should not relent in communicating our non violent and all loving world view. This combined with thorough surveillance and self-defense will deliver world peace!