Archive | October, 2013

BEYOND WESTGATE TERROR ATTACK: A CALL FOR ASSERTIVE SOBRIETY IN NATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTER TERRORISM INITIATIVES

3 Oct

By Javas Bigambo

There is no doubt that terror acts of the past two decades have earned terrorists global attention, and found a place in global security strategy. The Jihadist claim to terror in the name of Islamic religion could be an agenda a degree away from a holocaust.

The recent Westgate Mall attack in Kenya unfortunately served to demonstrate that Kenya’s defense and intelligence infrastructure is a little below average. Terrorists are merely opportunistic sadists fixated on the unquestionable fact that the world has refused to submit to their evil and petrifying manoeuvres. There is no gainsaying of the fact that untold intelligence lapses gave room to the Westgate massacre.

A brave plain-clothes policeman rescues a baby from the Westgate Mall.

A brave plain-clothes policeman rescues a baby from the Westgate Mall.


Agreeably, the prevention, preparedness and consequence management of terrorism hit a new low due to the prolonged time that the security agencies took to bring the Westgate menace under absolute control, the claims of some civilians being shot by the police, and other security officers being gunned down by “friendly fire” leading to “friendly” deaths.

From the Westgate misfortune, we can ably deduce, tethered to other terror acts on this peninsular, that East and Central Africa are badly equipped to deal with significant terror acts, and that Africa needs to re-think its continental security and terror strategy. There is definitely need for a Pan-African terror and security watch, that should help to forestall such heinous crimes that claim lives of innocents, plunge economies into disarray, destroy investment, separate lives, maim unarmed citizens and drive thousands into psychological anguish and torture.

Horror, pain and death as terrorists took Westgate Mall under siege.

Horror, pain and death as terrorists took Westgate Mall under siege.

Westgate terror attack has forever left an indelible stain not just in the hearts of victims and family, but on the presumably clean fabric of security intelligentsia in Kenya. Further, the allegation that the terrorists were drawn from various countries in the West, especially the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada among others, introduces a new dimension in the manner that terrorism is becoming – malleable, dynamic, multi-racial and driven by Western sophistication, if the weaponry and terrorism architecture in the recent times is anything to go by.

The unadulterated exuberance of terrorists is when global media attention is turned to them, and when everyone seems to be caught unawares. Kenyan security agencies need a comprehensive framework that contributes to the development of watertight terror alertness. It is sadder that the Al-Qaeda networks and affiliates always give a warning, perchance in sympathy of the potential victims.

The recent Westgate terror attack therefore means that without a critical security infrastructure in Kenya and in Africa, terrorists are likely to continue having field days of blood-thirsty madness. The security forces, starting with the nearly moribund National Intelligence Service (NIS), to police officers who are ever so willing to be bribed at road-blocks, to Immigration Officers who betray Kenya’s national security by accepting huge bribes to grant “false” citizenship to foreigners, especially of Somali descent, are tied together in a web of some selfish self-seeking conspiracy that has now grown to put Kenya’s national security at stake.

If Kenya’s flag must fly high again in confidence, then it is incumbent upon the President to expeditiously, cautiously and intelligently restructure, reform and reposition the security sector. The old horses in the sector should be turned in to root, to start with, because they have boxed themselves into a corner of comfort that renders them oblivious of the threats, realities and demands of the 21st century security vigilance.
Secondly, the recruitment of the intelligence team should be based on high intellect fused with rare ability and talent, not based on tribalism and ethnicity as it is done presently, just as it is self-evident in the hiring of police and military. This is what kills it.

Thirdly, Kenya should not be sorry for having moved into Somalia to reorganize its security and governance through a military incursion. Somalia was getting out of hand, and was becoming a threat to regional stability. In fact, the entire region should demonstrate support and boost Kenya’s presence in Somalia. If Al-Shabaab regains control of Somalia, it would give a boost to Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and if these terror groups are fortified by Al-Qaeda, it would cause a continental security nightmare. In this regard, Kenya needs to establish a strong terrorism risk and assessment initiative, which operates within the margins of international law and respect of human rights, anchored on Kenya’s Bill of Rights. This would be a monumental departure from the killing and torture craze of the Anti-terrorism police unit.

The Westgate terror attack has exposed the soft underbelly of Kenya’s security teams, confirmed our vulnerability, and has made an urgent call for re-thinking security sector reform. This is made worse even by the emerging allegations that are nearly certain that military officer may have “taken hostage” of all valuables and large cash amounts from various shops.

The Westgate terror attack has left the economy a little wounded, reduced investor-confidence, scared off some tourists, and left the business owners at the ill-fated mall economically punctured.

Kenya, in the end, needs to step up its counter-terrorism efforts. There is need to forge a continental and even intercontinental terror watch. During the Westgate attack, Britain and America offered their sympathies and support, in a bid to help Kenya manage the terror attack. All the while, China sat on its laurels, glowed in silence, and yet it claims a firm African development partnership support strategy. The terror attack was a ‘fine’ moment for China to show up and win the bride. Unfortunately, it became apparent that China’s interests are possibly skewed toward business profits alone.

America, China and Europe must support Africa’s struggle with terrorism. Except for the recent Westgate terror attack in Kenya, nearly every terror attack on the continent has been a western problem, not an African problem. Africa has continually suffered collateral damage because all targets have the consistency of being western interests on the African soil.

To close this whole argument, blame games will not disentangle a thing or assuage the ferment of terror happenings. The most urgent and significant thing to do is for the president, and attendant decision makers on security matters to ask the hard questions and make the hardest decisions ever.

Javas can be reached through: jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke