By: REMI MARECHAUX
On November 19, I was at Moi University in Eldoret to keep a promise that was made by France in April this year: to support the students who were wounded in the terrorist attack on the Garissa University College.
The people of France were shocked by this heinous attack and mobilised themselves to show their solidarity with the people of Kenya.
Since Friday, November 13, France has felt the pain of the dreadful and unjust death of 129 people assassinated by cowardly terrorists, 129 people of different backgrounds, nationalities, and religions.
The terrorists who struck in Paris, as the ones who struck in Garissa, are no foreigners.
They are our fellow compatriots.
We have to cope with this issue. They are Kenyan or French nationals who were radicalised, misguided, turned into fanatics.
Some 600 French citizens are reported to be fighting in Syria and Iraq in the ranks of Isis. Hundreds of others wish to join them.
How can we not notice the striking parallel with those young Kenyans who chose to join Al-Shabaab?
How can we not see that our two countries are now committed to the same fight?
A fight against violence and obscurantism. We have to remain clear-headed and not fight the wrong battle.
We are not at war with Islam, we are not at war with the Muslim world, both of which are exploited by the terrorists.
As President Francois Hollande said in front of the Congress on November 16: “This is not a war of civilisations, for the terrorists do not represent any.”
France and Kenya are targeted because they share the values of democracy, freedom, and tolerance, because we symbolise people successfully living together and a collective ideal despite our differences, be they ethnic or religious.
The values that we represent — freedom of thought, freedom of the press, the right to demonstrate, the right to vote, among many others — should bring about greater solidarity at this terrible time.
So, what can we do? My answer is simple: we have to work together.
Granted, the fight against terrorism is the responsibility of the government, the security forces, and the Judiciary.
But when innocent civilians are struck without discrimination, this fight is becoming everyone’s responsibility.
The time has come to strike back, each one of us at his level with his own means.
We are all targeted and hence we have a duty to act. Let us be actors in our collective security.
A youth on the path of radicalisation will be noticed by his family, friends, teachers, teammates.
Giving youth opportunities rather than frustration is another key.
It will show young people that hatred and terrorism can never be the solution and that living in freedom and security allows us all to build a fair and united society.
We know that radicalisation goes on mainly through the internet.
The propaganda of this ideology of death is abundant and appealing to many.
Admittedly, governments can create websites and spread a counter-narrative, but it will never be as convincing and, therefore, as effective as a narrative conceived by the citizens themselves.
We must not allow terrorists to divide or break our nations.
They seek to tear us apart, to play us against each other, to feed their hatred, and to turn religions into fighting lines.
Let us be clear: Muslims should not be singled out, for they are the first victims of extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab and Isis in Somalia, Syria, or Iraq.
It is not Islam that is responsible for the criminal path that some ignorant individuals have chosen. Only an ignorant and fanatical person could forget that the Koran clearly says: “Take not life, which Allah hath made sacred.” (Sura 17, Verse 33).
Strengthening the cohesion of our societies through dialogue is another way of fighting terrorism.
The people of Kenya and France will never forget what they have suffered, but this can only make us stronger.
Let this inspire us to hold high our common values of freedom, democracy, and solidarity.
We have suffered violence, grief, and sorrow. We have also felt anger. This anger must now turn into strength for the battle that is ahead of us. Bado mapambano.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION