Security structures have exposed an urgent need for restructuring
24 October 2013, 16:11
The dust has hardly settled. Kenyans are still coming to terms with the events that transpired at the Westgate shopping mall a little over a month ago. Families are still mourning the death of loved ones and the pursuit of the suspects of the deadly attack is on, according to reports.
Details are emerging about the operation and how our armed forces managed to eliminate the terrorists. Counter details of how they did not manage the same have also come out. Various exposés have detailed accounts and narrations from onlookers, from survivors, from government officials and footage which clearly shows videos and pictures of the Al Shabaab gunmen who held the whole country at ransom for four days. Heart-breaking, is the footage of our armed forces, and in particular, our Kenya Defence Forces, looting the besieged mall. A few weeks ago when the accusations came about in regards to the looting, many people were in disbelief and shock that the armed forces we entrust our security to had turned against us and did the despicable.
Our greatest fears have been confirmed. KDF, the personnel we pay so much tax to maintain and trust to keep our country at peace, looted the Westgate Mall. While Major General Julius Karangi has come out to seemingly justify their actions by saying that ‘they only took water’ and ‘sanitized the facility’, you have to ask yourself why he would even justify that.
Was it safer for KDF to get inside the mall to get the water while the building was under attack as opposed to getting water from outside the mall while ensuring their own safety and security? It is alright for the general to admit that his officers and indeed his commanders erred gravely. Justifying looting with statements by saying that ‘they only took water’ is quite below him. KDF could have saved their faces had he admitted that there were a few rogue officers who engaged in the act and ordering for an internal investigation into the same. We all know that not all KDF soldiers are ill mannered. The few that seemingly are, though, need to be disciplined.
The issue of looting has however ensured that debate is shifted. Which is obviously unfortunate. While we debate whether KDF looted the mall, the more pertinent questions are, did the security forces eliminate the terrorists as it was previously put? Did they make their way out of the building? If they were killed? Why would it be taking the government too long to release their names and even the pictures? Were the terrorists inside the mall for the entire four days?
Cabinet secretary for internal coordination, Hon. Ole Lenku, is on record stating that the terrorists were numbered ten to fifteen. Why isn’t it possible to release at least the name of one of the fifteen? The CCTV footage from the building shows four terrorists who attacked the mall and allegedly disappeared. The names of the terrorists have been published by one of the local television stations. Why won’t the government come out to confirm or dispel this expose?
It appears that during the operation, the security arms were not in tandem with each other. They were all seemingly acting on orders from each of their heads. Allegedly, this led to the loss of life of some of the security officers through friendly fire. It is curious. It would be expected that there would be proper coordination of the security forces during an attack on Kenyan soil or in battle outside the country as it is in Somalia against the Al Shabaab.
Perhaps this could have seen the threat ended in a few hours as opposed to the days it allegedly took. It also raises the question, are our security forces properly trained for such confrontations? Are the security arms in our country aware of what their mandate is and what supersedes the others’ mandate? Why was the mall bombed? Was it necessary to bomb and destroy the mall if the terrorists had been vanquished? These and many other questions keep on prodding the minds of many Kenyans.
Well-meaning Kenyans came out in support of those directly affected to pray, make blood donations, contribute money and other essential items. It is revolting to understand that this gesture could have been in vain. As we mourn as a country, the security organs need to assure us, without raising any doubts, that security is a guarantee to every citizen. As it is and with the circumstances surrounding this particular attack, the reassurance is glaringly absent.
Pancras Mutuma is a Public Relations Consultant based in Nairobi
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