Al-Shabaab in Kampala

A terrorist force is brewing ever so violently in lawless Somalia. The group isn’t new, but Al-Shabaab and its ties to Al-Qaeda represent a sharp and volatile increase in the terrorist presence in East Africa.

The group has claimed responsibility for the July 11 bombings in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The attacks left 76 people dead, of which the mainstream US media are quick to add one was an American citizen. Scores of others were brutally wounded.

Essentially, the “reasons” for this attack go back to 2006, when Ethiopia invaded Somalia. That most recent leg of the Somalian Civil War demonstrates an even more distinct decline into tribal governance and warfare throughout Somalia. Al-Shabaab, with its radical Islamic backing and its vicious recruitment tactics, carries heavy political weight in the region.

The group is gaining global ground in recent years, as well. Somali-Americans are being targeted for recruitment. Minneapolis has one of the highest Somali populations within the US  and many young men from the area have been brought on board with Al-Shabaab’s violent strategy.

Following the attacks in Kampala, Al-Shabaab has gone on to threaten Bujumbura, the capital of nearby Burundi. Both of those targeted countries have maintained peacekeeping forces within Somalia, along with the African Union’s presence.

The recent events from East Africa highlight the incredible need for unity in the region. It seems imperative that leaders of the more “democratic” states in the region do not back down in the face of militant and arbitrary aggression.

On a related and more personal note, my interest in Uganda is incredibly high right now. I was scheduled to go to Kampala for much of the summer until these attacks occurred – a mere 10 days before I was to travel there. Besides the devastation of having an amazing trip like that get canceled, I can’t help but feel an even more inflamed sense of injustice from the outside world. There can be no tolerance here, people. Threats in East Africa from a group like Al-Shabaab can easily translate into threats against democracy from terrorist groups throughout the world.

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