The government has admitted that there were lapses in the security response to the Garissa University College terrorist attack that left 148 people dead.
State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu on Thursday told editors in Nairobi that there were shortcomings in the State's response to the Al-Shabaab massacre.
“Did we do something wrong in Garissa? Yes, of course. It is always a learning curve. The only person with all cards is a terrorist. He knows where and when, what time. You react. In reacting, there are always time lapses. You have to react and plan,” said Mr Esipisu in response to mounting criticism of the government approach by the media and the public.
He went on: “You have to prepare for that ground. It is not as if you are dealing with known variables. You are dealing with a terrorist scenario. This is not a joke at all.”
He said the government wanted to save as many lives as possible at the university, which had 815 students.
“It is not something you go about without challenges. You have to plan. There may be delays in operations. You are dealing with lives in this case. You want to save as many as possible,” said Mr Esipisu.
He defended the arrival of Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet to Garissa before the security forces did, saying the helicopter that ferried the two had a capacity of only three passengers.
Therefore, Mr Esipusu noted, the chopper could not ferry the more than 25 Recce Company officers to the scene of the attack on time.
The Recce Squad landed in Garissa at 1.56pm although the alarm had been raised at 6am.
On accusations that the State was killing the morale of officers who felled the terrorists by paying them a Sh500 allowance, Mr Esipisu said the work of the security officers was to save lives and the allowance was not a priority at that moment.
Mr Esipisu also denied claims that the British government had shared intelligence with the Kenyan government on a potential attack.
“We do not deny that we have some security challenges, but countries that work together share information and decide on how best to combat the enemy. They do not go to marketplace and shout,” he said.
Kenya has shared and continues to share security intelligence with the United States and Israel, but that is not the case with the United Kingdom, he said.
He said the government embraces criticism of all kinds but insisted that it must be based on facts.
Kenya, he said, is at war and Kenyans must know that.
Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, who hosted the editors, asked the Kenyan media to be patriotic.
“We expect the media to work with the government instead of focusing on the negative alone. The media (are) part of … Kenyan society and we have to work together for the common good,” he said.
Kenya Editors Guild chairman Linus Kaikai asked the government to up its game in handling such crises.
He regretted that the government had learnt nothing from the Mpeketoni, Mandera bus and Mandera quarry attacks that happened last year.
“The Garissa University College attack has, therefore, become the high price we pay for simply failing to learn from the Westgate, Mandera and Mpeketoni attacks. This is the costly cycle that we must as Kenyans commit to break,” said Mr Kaikai.
Former Kenya Editors Guild chairman Macharia Gaitho said the government should fix security so that it does not get worried about travel advisories that are issued frequently by Western countries.