The Merriam Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal”. This definition is largely borrowed from the origin of the word and is fairly accurate. The term “terrorism” comes from French terrorisme, from Latin: ‘terror’, “great fear”, “dread”, related to the Latin verb terrere , “to frighten”. The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105 BCE.
This brings me to my point, isn’t our CS for internal security giving too much credence to Al Shabaab by referring to their attack on our soldiers as terrorism? To do so is to imply that our adversaries in “just war” that we declared are capable of instilling fear in our soldiers through an attack during the proceedings of such a war! This is both disrespectful to our soldiers and loose usage of a word that has been defined in our laws. Yet, he is hardly the only one.
Bruce Hoffman noted: “terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore. (…) Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization ‘terrorists becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending largely on whether one sympathizes with or opposes the person/group/cause concerned.
Every Kenyan should and probably regards Al Shabaab as a terrorist outfit, and rightly so, having been affected by the many cowardly, unquestionably in this case, terrorist acts on civilians. Their actions, which targeted innocent unarmed people, were by any definition, acts of terror causing fear among civilians (for some funny course I don’t understand). However, the same cannot be said of our soldiers without hurting our national pride. Our soldiers can get hit at war but fear is never a part of it and can therefore not be terrorized. The recent attack is therefore, arguably, not a terrorist attack.
Having said that, I don’t in any way mean that posting pictures and publicizing such images that hurt our national pride or the families of our soldiers that have been hit in war is anything other than stupid, unpatriotic and insensitive – it is probably just not illegal.