The Westgate Mall terrorist attack was the worst of the continued Terrorist attacks in the country since the birth of Al Shabaab organisation.
What sets terrorism apart from all the other deadly crimes that Kenyans encounter on a daily basis, is the fact that it causes fear, curtails our free movement, its objective is to kill, and it is impossible to negotiate with it.
For instance, in the case of armed robbers, they are interested in their loot, with all the intention of enjoying it later, so if you cooperate with them, they will most likely spare your life (that is why most of the survivors said that they thought it was a ‘normal robbery’). In the case of ethnic clashes, it is easy to prevent, and talks between communities will usually solve matters. If it organized criminal gangs, it just takes the government to deal with them since most of these mafia-like groups operate openly.
Terrorism tends to cause a lot of fear, whether we like it or not. Kenyans will fear(albeit temporary) going to churches when churches become targets, they’ll fear going to clubs when clubs become targets, they’ll fear taking public transport to Eastleigh when they become targets, they’ll fear going to the mosque when mosques become targets, and they will now have a subconscious fear when going into any of the big malls and even supermarkets.
Now that the blame game has begun, all eyes are rightly focused on National Intelligence Service(NIS), for the failure to unearth the Westgate Mall attack beforehand.
This is not the first time that the NIS has been blamed for laxity, with the highest blame coming in the 2007/8 PEV. Of course, this criticism reduced when during the commission of inquiry on the PEV it became evident that the NIS had the information, and they passed it on to the Police who then failed to act adequately.(I wonder what will happen if the NIS informs us that they had already informed the Police, again)
The question that was however left unanswered after the PEV inquiry was, since it’s clear that the NIS cannot act on what it gathers, what reforms should have then been made? This problem, in my opinion, can be solved by making the Inspector General of National Police Service answerable to the Director General of NIS, in addition to the president.
Nevertheless, the NIS, whatever they tell us this time round, must reorganize its priorities. The NIS is known for doing very good work on spying on politicians and patriots, but not the same work when it comes to prevention of crime.
The best way that I can describe the NIS in terms of its capabilities is that “it can do an excellent job towards preventing the toppling of the President by progressive civilian uprisings like the ones that we see in Tunisia and Egypt, but will do a terrible job in preventing gunmen from shooting the President at a political rally.”
David Kimaiyo should just go
I have always asked for the removal of the IG Kimaiyo, and with good reasons for that matter. We’ve tried to engage the National Police Service Commission to this end without any success.
On comparison, Kimaiyo is the worst of the three Police heads that we’ve had since 2004. Major General Hussein Ali was intelligent, confident and did well in TRYING to reform the Police force (save for the PEV blot). Mathew Iteere did not improve things at the Police Service, he rather maintained what Hussein Ali had began. But David Kimaiyo!! This IG still lives in the Nyayo Era days, and in my opinion, he is far less intelligent than his two predecessors. He seems not to have the slightest understanding of civil rights, it is as if he does not understand that we now have a Police service and not a police force, and he appears more proud when stating that they have arrested 20 prostitutes in Mombasa, than he does when explaining more important security matters. He is also “untouchable” since he gets all the protection he needs from another Nyayo era dictatorship mentality fellow, Francis Kimemia (and his wing man Mutea Iringo).
Actually, two events happened last week, which just shows how incompetent the man is;
1. Dealing with Hawkers.
Last week, some ‘activist’ friends of mine were working with a group of Hawkers, and they had organized a demonstration against the Police/Council Askaris constant wars. Then on the day of the Demo, the OCPD central called the activists and told them to call off the Demo, since he had intelligence information that a criminal gang wanted to join in the demo and cause havoc in the City, and he instead offered to organize for a meeting between him, the Governor and the Hawkers later that day. After long deliberations, the activists agreed to the OCPD’s request since this was the first time that he was cancelling a demonstration, but on condition that they would go and address the hawkers together, which they did. The Police intel was accurate, in that even after calling off the demo, a group moved out and went ahead to cause a lot of chaos and destruction in the City.
Two days later, the IG tweeted that he had created a special force of 450, yes, FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY Anti-Hawkers Police squad, drawn from the RP and the AP, to deal with the hawkers. If that is not a joke, then I do not know what is. The questions that we should ask are; Why use 450 Policemen to deal with Hawkers? What is the mandate of these policemen?? If we need 450 Policemen to deal with hawkers, then how many do we need to deal with crime in this country???
As for the talks, it was declared that there would be no negotiations with the Hawkers.
Back to the OCPD central meeting, one question that he could not answer was, if they knew that a criminal gang was planning to interfere with the peaceful demo, why didn’t they just go ahead and arrest them before the demo? In any case, they are criminals, meaning that there are other crimes that they have committed before and they can be arrested for those crimes.
I have had a chance to engage with the hawkers too, and these hawkers have proposed solutions (which are of course temporary, given the unemployment rates in this country..) which include opening up of back streets like the late Karisa Maitha had done 10 years ago, letting them operate on certain streets on certain days, and specific times; re-evaluating those operating at Muthurwa Market, so that anyone with an investment of above, say sh20, 000 may move to proper shops in town since their investment is above that of a hawker and many other good proposals. Why Kimaiyo prefers to use force and not a mixture of talks and if need be, force, is something that is incomprehensible.
The second thing that I have come to learn is that there is a group that charges the hawkers monies between sh50 and sh100 daily as protection fees. This group spies on the City Askaris and alerts the hawkers of their presence. This is the group that also fights out with the Police/Askaris in River road and Ngara, as the hawkers take cover. The group collects a minimum of sh75, 000 daily. I believe that this is the criminal gang that the OCPD was talking about, and if it’s the one, then the Police should be able to deal with them with ease, unless they want the status quo to remain, because I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that senior policemen get a share of the over sh75, 000.
2. How he dealt with the Westgate Mall saga
The second event of last week that confirmed to me that we have the wrong person at the helm of the Police Service was how IG Kimaiyo appeared at Westgate during the siege.
The fellow was fully aware that he was dealing with a terrorist attack/hostage situation, and then he appears at the scene with a helmet and an AK47 leaves behind his officers who are better equipped and wants to single handedly walk into the Mall and kill all the terrorists! And it had to take pleading from his juniors so as to bring him back into sense!! If this is not utmost carelessness, incompetence, a joke or a mixture of the three, then I do not know what is. Up until now, I am still trying to understand his motivation that day, and I zeroed down on four postulations;
· Either he was so angry with the terrorists that he wanted to deal with the matter himself, in direct combat (which epitomizes his incompetence)
· He has watched too many Commando and Rambo movies and wanted to implement what he had watched (going by his preferred Police Hat, the beret, this could be a high possibility)
· He was intentionally doing that for the TV and cameras (The fact that he can perform such a show when hundreds of lives are at risk is a huge disappointment)
· Or maybe he has emotional-mental problems (which should be taken seriously)
Whichever reason he had, if that is how he is leading the Police Service then I think the man should just go, since in command institutions, the leader really matters. Great commanders lead from the front, but not Kimaiyo style.
Who should Kenya learn from?
The Kenyan media seems to be infatuated with the Israeli and the American forces. Even when the President says that there were no foreign forces involved in the final assault, the media (especially the Nation media) still insisted that these foreign forces were involved. Kenyan government also holds the American and Israeli forces in high regard in relation to military stuff, and even the GSU’s Reece squad trains in Israel.
Not that we should not learn from foreign security forces, on the contrary, we should. However, we should learn from those in similar circumstances first.
If Kenya’s intention is to occupy other people’s lands, practice apartheid and to terrorize innocent people in other countries, then the best teachers will be the Zionists in Israel. If the intention is to dominate other people, kill innocent civilians in countries abroad, topple governments, host and train terrorist groups so that they can cause havoc against perceived enemies etc, then we can best learn from the Americans.
Kenyans cannot allow such colonial-imperialistic habits, nor can Kenya afford such.
Terrorism is not a new thing. If we want to learn how to effectively deal with it, now that we expect more of it, then we should learn from countries like Tunisia, Algeria and such. These two countries have had long experiences in dealing with Islamist terrorists and all their tactics, from suicide bombings, to taking of hostages, hijackings etc …… and here we are talking about 20-30 years experience.
I happened to visit Algeria earlier this year, and I could see the vigilance right from the airport. I interacted with a few Kenyan students on scholarship in Algeria, and they were full of praise of the Algerian Police, how helpful they are, how if you are lost or need anything, they will go to great lengths to help you, and also how firm they are. Nevertheless, what further impressed me was when one of them told me that Algerians “ni wambenye” and if you happen to be new in a neighbourhood, the neighbours will “Snitch” on you to the police. The civilians themselves do not joke with their security. The people are the first line of intelligence.
Then I flew to Tindouf, Southern Algeria, so that we could attend the 40th Anniversary of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, in the refugee camps (the reason our stay was in the refugee tents was because the Moroccan Kingdom, with the support of France, has been illegally occupying half of Western Sahara Republic since 1975.)
So when coming back, at the airport at Tindouf, I somehow forgot to remove some things from my pocket, and the Security officer moved his hands all over my body, and began feeling my pocket, and he asked me; “flashdisk?” I said yes. “Keys?” I said yes…then he amazed me when he asked me “lapel pin?” I responded yes….and finally, there was something that he could not decipher, so he asked me “what else?” I said nothing, just that. Then he said “no no, there is something else, please empty your pockets,” and kumbe what he could not decode was the Key holder, which is a metallic Whistle! I then passed through the metallic sensor really impressed. All this checks were being done despite the fact that I was using the government VIP facilities.
Early this year, Algeria dealt with terrible hostage situation at one of its natural Gas complexes, where 37 multinational hostages were killed, 29 Islamist terrorists killed and 3 arrested alive, at a complex with over 700 workers. The US and other western countries had offered to send their Soldiers, but the Algerian government, which is very critical of the west, turned down the offers and successfully dealt with the situation, keeping in mind that it borders Libya, Mali and Niger.
I think these are the people that we should learn from. Countries where Security forces are well trained can be trusted in matters of Security, and countries where people know that they have a role in their own Security.
HSM Press and My Conspiracy Theory
I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but some questions are leading me to this believe that there is one here.
When the Kenya Defence Forces rolled into Somalia, there was, alongside the war at the front, a ferocious propaganda and lies war on the media and specifically on Twitter, where KDF’s Major Emmanuel Chirchir was battling it out with whoever runs Al Shabaab’s HSM Press. I was following both of them, though I believed more on what KDF’s spokesperson Colonel Cyrus Oguna and Major Chirchir told us.
But all this changed when in September last year, some KDF soldiers were captured at the battle front, and after some days, KDF claimed that they had rescued some. This raised two contentions; firstly, KDF had said that those captured were five, and secondly, that they had rescued two soldiers. Al Shabaab on the other hand claimed that they had captured more, and none had been rescued.
So as to end the argument, Al Shabaab posted photos that killed my appetite for that day. They were photos of bodies of young Kenyan soldiers, some with their KDF ID cards and ATM cards placed on their chests. Kenya responded by condemning the showing of photos of the dead (no longer denying).
From that point on, I begun taking the HSM Press tweets seriously. Eventually, when KDF made the final and impressive amphibious attack and captured Kismayu, I did not fully believe the triumph, until the HSM Press confirmed it. The HSM Press had claimed that they were still holding on, but a few hours later, they admitted that they had been defeated and had closed operations from Kismayu……and the tweets that followed were angry tweets against Somalians who had betrayed them and worked with the “Kuffars”.
What I appreciate about the HSM Press is the fact that their updates are very genuine and honest. For instance, when police stations along the border were attacked or a bar in Nairobi was bombed, they would celebrate the killing of the policemen/civilians, but admit that they were not responsible, and when they were responsible, they did not hesitate to proudly tell us so, and they would also correct themselves when they gave wrong information. Secondly, they give information as it happens, hours before other media stations relay it, eg the attack of the Somali UN complex, the attack of Somalia President Sheikh Mohamud’s armored convoy among many others.
Anybody who was following the Al Shabaab on twitter will agree with me that the person who used to update that handle was extremely intelligent, composed and with a very good command of English. S/he could always fit sensible information within 140 characters.
But just a few weeks before the Westgate Mall attack, the “official” Al Shabaab handle was suspended. This was a strange move, and I couldn’t understand why it was suspended at this time. I remember that at the time of KDF’s incursion in Somalia, there were calls to close down their account, since their propaganda was demoralizing Kenyans, and the US government (without being asked) said that it supported the closure. KDF’s spokespeople however, in a show of confidence, opposed the idea of closing the account, saying that they(Al Shabaab) should be allowed to say whatever they wanted, since whatever they updated did not interfere with the battle on the ground, and in any case, their updates were just lies. The HSM Press therefore continued to operate.
Fast forward: A few days after the closure of this “official” account, another account was opened and closed, and another one opened, with others that were already there running parallel to the original one becoming more active than they were before.
During the Westgate Mall attack, we had the newest HSM Press account throwing in updates after every while. What was clear was that the person updating this new account was not the person who used to update the old account. The present manager of the account is erratic, makes too many grammatical errors and is extremely inconsistent when compared with the “official” updater. The present manager knows the Westgate Mall very well, and s/he can even throw a few Swahili sentences (which means that his message was to Kenyans and not Kenya government.) At some point, it felt as if the guy was updating the account in between sips of beer and w*#king in Nairobi.
The big question is: Why was the ‘official’ Al Shabaab twitter handle suspended in September 2013 when it was very harmless? Was the US government behind the suspension? Why would they push for its suspension now?
The other thing that leads to the idea that this attack was not an Al Shabaab attack was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reaction to the matter. He kept on insisting that no foreign forces were involved in the main operation, and that even though foreign governments had offered to intervene, only the Kenyan forces under Kimaiyo (and Gen Julius Karangi) would deal with the matter. This insistence for me appeared strange. Unlike the Algerian government which is known for being wary of imperialism and which has a lot pride in itself, the Kenyan Government would ordinarily welcome support from Israeli and American forces in this kind of rescue operation.
Why did Uhuru and his CS vehemently deny the involvement of external forces, even when Mossad and SAS soldiers had been involved in the foremost rescue attempts at the mall? Why didn’t they continue working with them alongside the KDF Special Ops force? What is it that Uhuru Kenyatta knew about the Israeli, British and the US forces that he did not want their continued involvement? Why did CS Amina Mohamed point out that some of the terrorists were US citizens in an interview with Al Jazeera even before the Mall was secured by KDF?
Wikileaks info tells us that the US government was strongly against KDF’s entry into Somalia. We know that what aggravated the situation in Somalia was US support for some militants and Warlords in Somalia, an act that most conflict analysts viewed as sabotage by the US government on the Peace efforts that were being hosted by Kenya. We also know that the US government has been reaping billions in terms of protection fees against piracy off the Somali Coast. We also know of some multi-national companies being in the process of exploring Oil and natural gas in Somalia, in cahoots with a few warlords. Definitely the CIA has made some infiltration into Al Qaeda and its affiliate organisations.
Does Peace in Somalia mean losses for the Empire, and hence the efforts to sabotage the efforts in Somalia?
Some individuals will begin demanding for the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia, since that is what the new “unofficial” Al Shabaab kept on demanding.
But how will the withdrawal of Kenyan forces from Somalia ensure Security for Kenyans? If these terrorist began attacking even before KDF’s entry, what will they do with KDF’s exit? What if the terrorist continue with the attacks and demand that Kenya withdraws from the former North Eastern Province, will we withdraw for the sake of Peace? How far back will we go? Kitui? Eastleigh?
I have in an older post on this blog said that the KDF was invited into Somalia by the Somalia government, which was a legitimate government since it was born out of the Islamic Courts Union of Somalia. If the present Somali government says that we should withdraw, then Kenya must withdraw, but such withdrawal should not be because of the terrorist attacks in Kenya, or because of foreign funded NGOs push, or even because the US feels that Kenya should withdraw. As a Pan-Africanist, I know what Peace in Somalia means for Africa and the region.
On the other hand, the KDF should not retaliate and punish Somalians for this terrorist attack, that will be against their objective. They should continue with their operations under AMISOM in collaboration with the Somalian government as they had planned. I am saying this because we have before seen backward generalized retaliation against the population by the Police in Eastleigh, and by the Military in Garissa in reaction to terrorist attacks.
26 September 2013
The MPs should stop this stupid talk of giving watchmen guns. That move will only endanger the lives of innocent Kenyans and that of the guards themselves even when it comes to ordinary crimes like robbery…….and please, they should stop giving examples of Kampala guards…they look so helpless with their funny looking guns.
It is so sad that those terrorists took the lives of so many Kenyans, including that of the brilliant Peter Simani, Chairperson of the Political Parties disputes Tribunal. I remember first, and severally thereafter engaging him in the tribunal when we filed a case against Peter Ndwiga, Mutahi Kagwe, Mutua Katuku and the registrar of political Parties for hijacking our Party, the Social Democratic Party of Kenya. We were then in the Youth League of the Party, and we could not afford legal representation, so we represented ourselves. The other side was represented by well known lawyers, and the three hijackers were all serving in the Mwai Kibaki government. Most people told us that even though the facts were on our side, we would lose the case with costs, since we were going up against powerful Kibaki people. But the tribunal, under the leadership of Peter Simani, Chacha Odera and Jessie Mutura listened to the case, and gave us our rightful victory. He appeared as a man with arrogant intelligence, but very fair when listening to cases. So sad that he, and many other compatriots are gone.