Intelligence sharing, alert levels improved, but more to be done

Monday September 21 2015

Since the attack on Westgate Mall in 2013, the war against terrorists has changed the security landscape in the country, with hard lessons learnt.

Of note, however, is that the government has struggled to improve its response to such emergencies since the bungled rescue mission during the Westgate siege, say security experts.

Intelligence gathering and sharing across the various agencies has improved, as evidenced in the number of suspects who have been arrested and the fact that the country has not had a major terror attack since the Garissa University College one.

There have been changes too, with the appointment of a new Interior Cabinet secretary, a new head of intelligence and a new Inspector-General of Police.

Experts say that although much has been learnt and improved following both the Westgate and Garissa University attacks, much more needs to be done to eliminate the threat and in rescuing victims during such assaults.

According to Mr George Musamali, the director of Centre for Risk Management in Africa, a security consultant firm, and Ms Jane Mugo, a security expert, the messy rescue mission in Westgate, where some officers were killed in friendly fire means that the government needs to have a more coordinated response during such events.


“If you look at the slow response during the Garissa University attack where we had Kenya Defence Forces on the ground, who could not do anything until Recce squad officers were flown in hours after the attack, it tells that we need to have a command centre,” said Mr Musamali.

The command centre, he added should have all security forces — Kenya Police, KDF, National Intelligence Service among others — represented and have all of them receive orders from one quarter.

Ms Mugo, a former under-cover agent with the Kenya Police, added that leadership wrangles, especially within the police service, contribute highly to poor coordination during such rescue missions.

“With such infighting, we end up with a less organised police service,” added the Trimo Security and Private Investigators boss.

Intelligence gathering among the various agencies has also improved, with less grumbling across the command chain, said the experts.

Mr Musamali noted that this had led to the arrest of terrorism suspects and in return, attacks have been thwarted.

He, however, said that the government needs to invest more in gathering “popular intelligence” from the public.

“Uganda and Ethiopia rely heavily on such public intelligence, which is also called popular intelligence, and if we are to win the war on terror, we must make use of the public to give us information,” he added.

The security expert further cautioned that the alleged extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects by the police was fast eroding public trust in the officers.

This, he said, is likely to kill the community policing initiative Nyumba Kumi, which the government is fronting as a way to help combat insecurity.