The blame-games over Westgate not doing the country’s image any good

Monday September 30 2013

Thick smoke bellowing from the Westgate Mall after a huge explosion on September 23,2013. Photo/WILLIAM OERI

Thick smoke billowing from the Westgate Mall after a huge explosion on September 23,2013. Photo/WILLIAM OERI 

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It takes politicians to divide us, and terrorists to unite us. Confession: I didn’t compose that one, it’s one of the gems our irreverent wags will always share free-of-charge on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s a most apt observation in the wake of that dastardly terrorist assault in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.

The shared horror, anger and outrage united Kenyans more than ever before. That’s the spirit that should be seized on promptly before politicians get up to their same old divide-and-rule tricks.

Already, precious moments are being lost. The aftermath of the Westgate attack provided the ideal opportunity to start crafting a new ethos built on national pride, unity and patriotism.

Instead, we have been distracted by indications that the moments of bravery and heroism that filled us with so much pride could eventually be overshadowed by revelations of infighting, a bungled rescue and numbers that don’t add up in relation to fatalities, the missing and whether the terrorists were killed, captured or just disappeared into thin air.

It is not too late. Even as clearly overwhelmed Interior Secretary Joseph ole Lenku waits for forensic pathologists to provide answers to all the burning questions, President Uhuru Kenyatta can go beyond the pussyfooting and the blame games to strike while the iron is hot.

Inadequacies in our national security system have been all too clear in the wake of the attack. The president will have all the public support if he moves speedily to sack all the blundering fellows more intent on CMA — Cover My Ass — diversions than in national security.


All the key honchos in the security establishment, from the be-medalled chiefs at the Kenya Police Service, Kenya Defence Forces and National Intelligence Service onto the clueless Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries at the ministries of Interior and Defence, should be given “show cause” letters.

That bureaucratic and inter-agency infighting might have prolonged the Westgate siege is reason enough for all those found culpable to not only lose their jobs, but also face criminal charges for causing the death of innocents through dereliction of duty.

Next, we must also move fast to seize the moment and deliver crushing blows against Al Shabaab. The Kenya Defence Forces are already in control of a large swathe of southern Somalia and must have a pretty good idea where the key command and control centres of the terrorist group are located.

They should move with speed in attempt to cut the head of the snake.

Locally, it is time to take out the Kenyan cells. The security agencies have known for a long time there are key recruitment, indoctrination, coordination, fund-raising and banking centres at the service of Al Shabaab in Nairobi, Mombasa, Garissa, Wajir and other towns.

For unclear reasons they have tolerated them. Now there is every reason to hit them without mercy. It doesn’t pay to play soft with terrorists.

The supply lines must be shut and the steady infiltration from lawless Somalia into Kenya permanently halted. All Somali nationals who are illegally in Kenya must be arrested and deported.

The Kenyan immigration officials and border-control police who facilitate the terrorist infiltration must also be rounded up, together with their respective Cabinet Secretaries, put on a plane and parachuted somewhere in the middle of Shabaabland to consort with their friends.

The refugee camps in North-Eastern Kenya that provide the easiest avenue for “legal” infiltration must also be relocated lock-stock-and barrel to the liberated zones across the border.

This is not a knee-jerk reaction. Neither is it a call for suspension of human rights and constitutional liberties. It’s simply what must be done.

In the meantime, let’s resist the temptation to make political capital out of the disaster. I have already seen the social media armies at the service of President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto saying that the two cannot now honour summonses by the International Criminal Court in the wake of a pressing national emergency.

That is an insult to the dead. It might also cause some of us to start putting two and two together.