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Framing the issue

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Conflict and political violence in Kenya

The al-Shabaab attack on Nairobi’s upmarket Westgate shopping mall will reinforce perceptions of Kenya being a high-risk security environment, raising security and operational costs. The incident marked an escalation in al-Shabaab’s tactics, and was the first major attack that the militant group has claimed outside Somalia since a bomb attack in the Ugandan capital Kampala in 2010.

‘Soft’ targets such as restaurants, shopping centres, hotels and churches in Kenya, and indeed in urban areas across East Africa, could be at heightened risk. Nevertheless, al-Shabaab is unlikely to have the capacity to carry out another attack on the same scale as the Westgate siege in the short term.

Meanwhile, despite presidential elections in March 2013 taking place relatively peacefully, several underlying drivers of ethno-political violence in Kenya remain unaddressed.

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