VENTURES AFRICA – Yesterday, the United States warned of a possible Al Shabab terrorist attack on Uganda’s capital Kampala. Citing intelligence reports, the US embassy alerted to the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack on the locations frequented by Westerners. Last year, the US warned of similar threats but no attack occurred. But Al Shabab’s persistent threats on the rapidly developing East African city is raising concern especially among foreign nationals whose investments are crucial to Uganda’s economic progress.
Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabab terrorists have vowed to attack members of AMISOM– an AU-backed group of countries charged with retrieving the terrorists’ control of parts of Somalia. Among these countries are Uganda and Kenya, both of whom have been attacked by the extremists. In 2010 during the World Cup Al Shabaab bombed a sports bar in Kampala, killing at least 74 football fans. Its most brazen attack came in 2013 when the terrorist group killed not less than 64 persons in an attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya.
The Nairobi attack, in addition to the human losses, significantly affected businesses in the economic hub. The worst victim of the attack was the tourism sector, which consists of 61 percent of Kenya’s services sector. Retail and hospitality businesses also slowed in the city due to fear of possible replica attacks. Now, those fears have spread to Uganda’s main economic hub.
Kampala has witnessed rapid urban expansion over the last decade with the government focused on infrastructural developments. It is also the business hub of the country as well as the regional financial capital of neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Rwanda. It is also the mainstay of Foreign visitors, numbers of which has swelled in recent years. Uganda was, in 2013, named the favourite destination for foreign investors in the East African region in 2013 by the World Investment Report.
Despite these potential fears, Uganda’s security forces are convinced that Al Shabab will not be able to succeed with an attack the scale of Westgate’s. Uganda does not have a direct border with Somalia, from where the terrorists originate. It is also predominantly Christian, with the minority Muslims around 10 percent of the population. Thus, unlike Kenya which shares borders with Somalia and has close to 500 thousand Somali refugees, there is little or no local support for the extremist group.