It is rare to want to compare our African President, whose father fought the British, to a European colonialist.
However, Scipio Africanus, who was leading a Roman army nearly 2000 years ago, is a strategist who has inspired much interest over the years. So we can forgive our post-colonial sensitivities, as we analyze some important military strategy.
In 205 BC, Scipio who was only 31 years of age was elected to consulship in the great city of Rome, the superpower of the day. While we are no Rome, Kenya, today is somewhat of a regional superpower. We have been representing the continent at events such as the G8, and we have one of the strongest economies and militaries on the continent.
While President Uhuru Kenyatta was not 31 when he became President, his youth and vitality were touted internationally as unique features of an African leader.
However, the comparison with Scipio is not merely an issue of age or vitality rather it is one of strategy.
Scipio was famous for his ability to amass forces for military campaigns, in tough times, and often, against determined political opposition. Scipio thought outside the box and looked for help wherever he could find it. Likewise, Uhuru has travelled far and wide to help get our troops ready to tackle the terror threat head on.
The most important thing for our Commander in Chief is that our troops are ready for battle. Scipio understood that he would need well trained cavalry for his African adventures, and when he received no support in Rome, he travelled to Sicily to get what we needed.
Yet despite the lack of political support, Scipio went to battle, utilizing stealth and intelligence to set fire to the Carthaginians camp in the middle of the night.
Most of the opposing forces either fled or were killed in the panic.
Our intelligence war and the fighting in Somalia is reminiscent of this strategic brilliance, and crucial for keeping attacks on our homeland to a bare minimum.
The strategy is to make sure your potential attacker is continuously hurting and on the run.
Go directly to their base, to their natural comfort zone, and utilising the element of surprise, implement the killer blows. The stealth and silence with which the KDF and our intelligence services have been keeping attacks to a minimum has been indeed commended by many.
Some critics claim that the KDF participation in Somalia is adventurous, but that is just what the Roman senators said about Scipio. John F Kennedy famously noted, “Great crises produce great men and great deeds of courage”. And the expansion of political Islam, and a puritanical, violent Islamic fundamentalism is indeed one of the great crises of the day. We need great leaders who are willing to fight the enemy with courage, wherever they may be found.
As Scipio’s Roman army surrounded the remnants of Carthage, they begged for diplomatic negotiations. They were, to use boxing terminology, against the ropes. While it is unlikely we want to be negotiating with vicious terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab, we certainly want to work with our like-minded allies to force the terrorist groups into submission.
However, when the terrorists are on the run, when their organizations are strangled from international finance and diplomatic support, they lose their inspirational value. And without their inspirational value, their propaganda becomes worthless.
Propaganda and perceived victories are the twin fires which fuel these terrorist groups. This is how they recruit. They inspire through incitement and brainwashing, not through desperation. And nobody wants to join the losing team.
We must continue to support our army, and our political leadership, in the fight against al-Shabaab and terrorism at large.
The views expressed in this article don’t necessarily represent KBC’s opinion