Security chiefs intensify blame game as probe into attack starts

Saturday October 5 2013

KDF soldiers entering Westgate mall on September 21, 2013 after terrorists attacked Westgate mall. Photo/JEFF ANGOTE

KDF soldiers entering Westgate mall on September 21, 2013 after terrorists attacked Westgate mall. Photo/JEFF ANGOTE 

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Rivalry within top security agencies has intensified ahead of the naming of a commission of inquiry to investigate security lapses that may have resulted in the Westgate Shopping Mall terrorist attack three weeks ago.

Top government sources on Saturday told the Sunday Nation that the inquiry is expected to point out who failed Kenyans between the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), National Intelligence Service and the Kenya Police Service, since the three agencies seem to trade blame for being negligent in their duties to protect Kenyans.

The anxiety within the security agencies also comes ahead of investigations into the matter by a joint parliamentary team, scheduled to start Monday.

The joint team is headed by Defence and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ndung’u Gethenji and his Administration and National Security counterpart Asman Kamama. The MPs have promised to give a report within 30 days.

Sunday Nation has established that the rivalry escalated when KDF reduced internal security units to doing peripheral duties at Westgate.

At one time, a KDF commander ordered some senior police officers, who were not in uniform, to leave the scene. But one of the police bosses intervened and they resisted the move.

The rivalry started on Saturday, September 21, when a commander of the GSU’s Recce squad was killed by friendly fire.

KDF took over from Recce unit in a changeover that is thought to have allowed the terrorists, who were on the retreat in the mall, to gain ground.

Technically, the Constitution mandates Inspector-General David Kimaiyo to be in charge of the operation. However, when KDF took over, he was bypassed and all were reporting to the Department of Defence — an issue that came out explicitly during press conferences held between Interior Minister Joseph Lenku, Mr Kimaiyo and KDF chief Julius Karangi.

A security Consultant with Executive Protection Services, Mr George Musamali, yesterday said there was a breakdown of command structure at Westgate, which has disgruntled respective security agencies.

Mr Musamali argued that the government needs to come up with a paper detailing how KDF can work with the police in future operations to avoid inter-agency rivalry.
“If we continue like this, we will have a crisis in the event that we have another attack. As it is now, no one wants to take responsibility for anything because the change of guard from Recce unit  to KDF created a vacuum, which terrorists took advantage of,” he said.

He maintained that the Westgate attack was supposed to be handled by police and not KDF.

“The Kenya Police Service has all kinds of officers. GSU, Recce unit, Administration Police among others. This was purely a police matter and not for KDF. That is where the rivalry starts and ends,” he said.

However, the inter-agency rivalry happens all over the world, according to the consultant. He wondered why the joint Parliamentary investigation team wants to release its report after 30 days.

“They know that Kenyans have short memories. The heat on who owns the failure would have reduced,” he says.

On Saturday, Mr Kamama and Mr Gethenji declined to reveal the security chief they are scheduled to grill on Monday.

CHARM OFFENSIVE

Following a week of bad publicity after their personnel were accused of looting shops at Westgate, KDF on Friday began a charm offensive to win back public trust.

The job was handed to Major Emmanuel Chirchir, one of the force’s spokesmen, who took to Twitter to announce that they helped “repatriate” Sh300 million from banks, forex bureaus and the casino at the mall.

Major Chirchir declared that KDF knows its enemies, who “have decided to use propaganda to undermine our public goodwill”.

KDF has suggested that their internal security counterparts have been responsible for the now widely held view that the soldiers were involved in the looting of shops in the mall when they kicked everyone out.

Major Chirchir has argued that no shops were looted and demanded a list of the shops involved and their owners.

“It would also be good to list shops that were vandalised out of the over 80 stores. So far, Bata shop has talked of its shop being intact. KDF did a fantastic job, we know our enemies who have decided to use propaganda to undermine our public good will”, he said.

The issue is complicated by the fact that police have declared that anyone who looted shops at the Mall will be prosecuted.

They are keen on taking to court even the KDF personnel alleged to have been seen on CCTV footage looting shops. 

“Listen to me very well. We have opened a file for anyone who lost property that was not destroyed by fire to record a statement. If we establish that the shops were looted, we will look at the footage and charge those responsible for this criminality,” said Nairobi Criminal Investigation Department commander Nicholas Kamwende on phone.

If they are to go after KDF’s soldiers and officers, they will need the help of the military police, who ensure law and order in the defence forces, to hand over the suspected rogue personnel to the civilian justice system.

In the event of criminality, KDF initiates its internal system, which could either be a disciplinary committee or a court martial before handing over any rogue members to the civilian justice system.

According to the officers in the know, the battles over alleged looting at Westgate are symptoms of a bigger turf war to win over the hearts and minds of the Commander-in-Chief, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Reported by ANDREW TEYIE and JOHN NGIRACHU.