There is no doubt that Kenya merits U.S. support as a frontline state in the war against terror. But some of Nairobi’s rhetorical and policy responses to that challenge could stifle civil society and inflame the conditions that fuel radicalization.

Last month, members of the Somali Islamist terror group al-Shabab conducted a horrific attack at a university in Garissa, gunning down nearly 150 people, including 142 students. The terrorists sought out young Christians to be murdered. The massacre came some two years after al-Shabab’s rampage at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which left 67 dead. Garissa was the worst terror attack in the country since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

The gruesome Garissa attack refocused the world’s attention on the murderous exploits of al-Shabab – and on the difficult challenges Kenya faces in combating the group. A long, porous border with Somalia is one such challenge. The nation deserves Western backing to meet the threat. But it’s important that Kenya not react in ways that aggravate the danger.

Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, called upon the United Nations in April to close the Dadaab refugee camp near the border with Somalia. Dadaab, which was set up in 1991 after Somalia’s political collapse, is home to more than 400,000 Somalis and is the largest refugee camp in the world. Ruto gave the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 90 days to close the camp before Kenya forcibly relocates it.

Such rhetoric serves only to alienate and further marginalize Kenya’s Somali population, exacerbating the divisions, both religious and ethnic, that al-Shabab exploits.

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