THE FAULT LINES 'WESTGATE' EXPOSED
The Westgate attack showed that it is not enough to change the security bosses, or tackle Al Shabaab through the wholesale condemnation of members of the Somali ethnic group. WANJOHI KABUKURU reports
On year after the Westgate siege, the commemoration was as expected. Those affected are still mourning and cling to the precious memories. In terms of official government policy there are three major casualties of the Westgate aftermath. Two are personal and one is institutional. The immediate Major General Michael Gichangi and Jane Waikenda are the two personalities who were relieved off their positions as Director General of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and director of immigration service respectively. Based on what is in the public domain as presented by the immediate NIS boss, it was
clear that the intelligence service was weak operationally and relied on other agencies for its “bare knuckled brawn work.” A clear indication that NIS was not solution focused but dwelt heavily on soothsaying.
Westgate also brought in new faces to take over Gichangi and Waikenda. They are Major-General Philip Kameru the former director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence ( DMI) and Major-General (rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa as the director of immigration.
Westgate has taken precedence as the worst terror attack on Kenyan soil the August 7th 1998 bombing of the US embassy. Why Westgate has more prominence than other terror attacks in Kenya is a question begging answers and is not just a mere academic exercise but has pointers that lead to Kenya’s security’s challenges. The way it played over the social media; the reality of the Hollywood machismo tone that the four day siege took as it was played on live television and online streaming plus the visibility of the venue and high society individuals are all open clues of the mode that terrorism has taken in the recent past. In terms of casualties, Westgate pales over the August 7th 1998 bombings.
The Somali militant group Al Shabaab who claimed responsibility for the four day siege that claimed 67 lives took advantage of the lack of checks and balances between the intelligence, immigration and the police and maxi-
Emerging terror and organised crime threats are newer taking forms everyday and mutating at the same time
mized on social media to pass their message across to the world. Based on the blame game that ensued soon after the Westgate and the intelligence briefs that were leaked once the siege had ended it is clear that credible intelligence on the attack had been gathered, collated, analysed and passed on to the relevant authorities but nothing tangible happened.
The events leading and after Westgate indicate that it is not enough to change the security bosses. This is because the fault lines between the country’s security agencies run deep. It is also clear that the security agencies are weak operationally, unwieldy and somewhat caught in a time warp. The approaches and methods used in tackling Al Shabaab
with wholesale condemnation of members of Somali ethnic group have shown a police force that lacks in ideas and is poor in imagination. It also shows the lack of commitment to national values and erroneous judgement. The same can also be said of NIS. Over at the immigration which has since been co-opted into the Kenyan security matrix, lethargy and self serving interests have been the norm.
And this is the tough job that the new intelligence and immigration bosses must appreciate. They are joining institutions in dire need of complete mental makeovers. Though times have changed, these institutions are yet to keep pace with emerging trends in immigration and intelligence. While it must be appreciated that both Kihalangwa and Kameru are hard men with success and high achievements perched on their epaulettes, change management which is their main task ahead is a daunting responsibility.
Emerging terror and organised crime threats are taking newer forms everyday and mutating at the same time. The August 7th Memorial Park in Nairobi which was supposed to serve as a “never again” moment to terror attacks on Kenyan soil is more theoretical than real. Westgate and Mpeketoni massacres happened even when it was clear advance warnings had been issued and clearly demonstrated that Kenya’s “never again moment” had been compromised. August 7th Memorial Park was meant to be a showcase where terrorism was defeated but it is today a sad reminder of how security agencies especially the police slept on the job.
And this is what brings in the the Inspector General of Police (IGP) David Kimaiyo into focus not to mention the third change which is institutional as it directly affects the police service. Westgate has seen the IGP losing clout in internal security affairs and much influence now rests with the military.
In the terrorism war, the organised crime league, poaching crisis, drug trafficking and general crime the police seem to have lost out completely. The events of the last one year show disjointed specialized police formations
that appear to be in cahoots with crime barons. Lacklustre police formations notably Anti Narcotics Police Unit, Land Fraud Unit, Special Crimes Preve ntion Unit and the Anti-Banking Fraud Unit (ABFU) are police units that lack the mettle to deliver. Apparently lesser police squads like “kwekwe” and “Rhino” appeared to have achieved much especially in the fight to contain the threats posed by Mungiki which was fast becoming a militia.
Both the directorate of criminal investigations and the anti terrorism police units appear overwhelmed and clueless in the terrorism war. So far the police have generally been playing second fiddle and lacking in initiative. And the two reasons that prop up on police blunders are corruption and cozying up to political interests.
It is clear the military is clinching the accolades in an area that was originally a preserve of the police. This is where Kimaiyo and his respective deputies need to come up with newer strategies or lose out completely. The signs are already on the wall and the groundwork has already been prepared. The establishment of the Nairobi Metropolitan Command (NMC) which is to be under the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is the surest sign that the police are losing out in the terrorism war courtesy of their own failures. When the NMC was set up in late 2013 by president Uhuru Kenyatta, and given wide ranging powers to combat “terrorism, drug trafficking, proliferation of small arms and crime” it was clear the police had outwitted themselves out of the internal security docket and are almost making themselves irrelevant. The second episode that the police are out of the corridors of power was when President Uhuru oversaw the Kenya Navy destroying heroin worth $11.2million in the Indian ocean. Kimaiyo who is known for his zealous reading of the Bible must now brace himself for his own “Mene, Mene, Tekel upharsin” moment
FLASHBACK: Running for cover on September 21, 2013