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Lessons for Kenya after Westgate attack

By Jillo Kadida

Ever since a bunch of terrorists lay siege at Nairobi’s upmarket Westgate mall, resulting in a three-day-long standoff, Kenyan security forces have been working hard to bury their shame in an avalanche of messages promoting national unity. But three factors show they slept on the job.

During the operation there were glaring missteps, which in my view contributed to loss of life due to the prolonging of the hostage situation.

Firstly there was no clear chain of command to coordinate efforts of the various security agencies called in such as regular police, a special unit from the general service unit and the Kenya Defence Force.

The officers could not agree on which wing should lead the operation and even as they haggled over this, reports indicate they shot each other dead. Their disorganisation was exhibited in full glare of the terrorists who were inside the mall watching. At some point the forces had to get out of the mall so as to agree on who should command the operations leaving the terrorists all the time to kill more civilians.

Secondly the terrorists who held Kenya on standstill rented a shop at the mall where they stored arms. They monitored the entire mall for months, figured all the entries and looked at the day and time when they could get many people at the mall.

Reports indicate also that they rented an apartment nearby and lived there as they familiarised themselves with the area. Question here is how come no one noticed this? And if it was known who slept on their job? The national intelligence service is on record saying it gave information to the inspector general of police, David Kimaiyo, and the criminal investigations department boss, Ndegwa Muhoro, indicating that Westgate mall was a high-risk target for a terror attack.

But no action was taken to avert the terror attack. In fact the police response was poor as they took some time before reaching the mall. Worse still, at first they thought it was a robbery, which leaves one wonder how would the police force, which has information that the mall is top on the list of buildings targeted by terrorists, fail to think of a terror attack at first instance.

The third reason is lack of proper manning of our very porous border points, aggravated further by corrupt police and immigration officers. In Kenya police officers will let you get away with anything so long as you bribe them.

The police have managed to keep the trophy of being the most corrupt institution in East Africa several times as indicated by the Transparency International corruption index. In short money talks and there is nothing like patriotism or professionalism. This coupled with incompetence makes the situation worse. Let me give an example of what happens on the road to northern Kenya where I come from. To the north Kenya borders Ethiopia and Somali, both very porous for smuggling anything from arms to goods.

On the road to northern Kenya there are several police road-blocks at which the passengers are vetted. These check-points, even though they are good, don’t help much because the officers are obsessed with asking for people’s national identification cards but not checking their bags, which beats logic. For those who are found without a national ID card they are questioned for a few minutes and let go after they part with something as low as $2.50.

Then after paying the bribe they return to the bus and the journey to the capital city, Nairobi, continues with no one inspecting the luggage and their contents. Why do they ask passengers for their ID card when they don’t check if they are smuggling hand grenades or arms to the capital city? So is this incompetence on the part of the police officers or is it that they don’t care? Having said this my suggestion is that the government and the public have their jobs cut out for them and should work together if this war on terrorism is to be won.

The government ought to put its house in order, ensure the boarders are manned, any luggage getting into the city or the country needs to be thoroughly checked, pay the police forces well so that they are able to cater for their needs and are not vulnerable. And whoever slept on their job regarding the Westgate mall attack should be held accountable.

And Kenyans also need to take it upon themselves to know who their neighbour is and report any suspicious person to authorities. And it is only then that we will stand together and fight war on terror and win.

Jillo Kadida is chief court reporter with The Star newspaper in Nairobi.


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  1. proactive proactive 1 October 2013

    …Jillo, this sounds so familiar! If Kenya and Nairobi would have been left out, one could by mistake have thought of Jozi! N-E-W- and South- gate sounded so similar!
    Heavens forbid!

    Our Army & Police- with all their newly acquired equipment enabled through the infamous arms deal- would surely have done a better job- without killing each other!
    Guess, our NSS could have been unawares as well in this regard and in a similar sweet slumber!

    Kenya, after 50 years of independence shows its experience and maturity in the fight against corruption being 139th out 174 most corrupt nations- surpassed of course by the master of all masters- your villain neighbor Somalia at 174/174.

    After only 20 years of independence, SA has still to learn to reach for the sky- being only on place 69/174 so far. However, there are another 30 years left to catch up!

    It seems Africa could learn a thing or two from the least corrupt on this continent- Botswana at 30/174- near northern hemisphere standards! Hopefully they will survive and remain unaffected- being placed on the watch & invaders list of revolutionary wise man JM!

  2. george orwell george orwell 2 October 2013

    Hi Jillo. I think Kenyans are being a little hard on themselves in the face of this dreadful atrocity.

    Think back to when the US was attacked by AlQaeda in 2001. They were also taken by surprise – tho they ID’d the perps within 24 hours with no forensics.

    No clear chain of command was seen in the US either.

    Not a single jet was efficiently scrambled for 90 minutes, giving the four hijacked planes command of US skies, despite the fact the Air Force had a previous record for always scrambling timeously.

    Not a single US official was reprimanded or fired: it’s documented that some officers received promotions.

    The owner of the World Trade Centre (WTC) 7 Building, whichimploded though not hit by a plane, is the same owner of the Westgate Mall (Israel-Aus dual citizen Lowy). Frank Lowy co-bought WTC 7 with Larry Silverstein 6 weeks before 9/11 and insured it against terrorist attack. They received billions in insurance payout.

    Naturally people first thought Westgate was a robbery…This is a human assumption – not every incident is ‘terrorism’. But the big boys cottoned on quick. The Israelis helicoptered in their armed team quickly, follwed by US and UK teams. They did valiant work it must be said.

    But… say a Chinese-owned building in US or UK was attacked, would it be OK for armed Chinese guards to helicopter in and get involved? Or would US/UK protest about foreigners getting involved across sovereign borders?

    Random questions which Kenyans…

  3. george orwell george orwell 2 October 2013

    In additiion Jillo, your government can perhaps put its house in order by conducting some sort of independent commission of enquiry to establish what went on at Westgate.

    Make sure the commission is truly independent, though, so there are no accusations of ‘whitewash’ afterwards.

    This is what has plagued the US, post 911, because their 2001 enquiry was conducted by the US Dept of Commerce’s NIST agency, thus an inside agency rather than independent.

    The “Foreign Policy Journal” has looked at this NIST report:

    Given that part of the Mall building collapsed and Kenyan officials first said it was due to ‘fire caused by burning mattresses’, the NIST report is relevant.

    Later, we saw the Kenyan story change from ‘fire from burning mattresses’ to ‘bazookas fired by forces’ – as the cause of the collapsed Westgate parking lot.

    In the same way, US government first said Building Seven was brought down by ‘office furnishing fires’ but later the NIST director conceded to ‘freefall acceleration’ of eight floors: ie. demolition of steel structure through the path of greatest resistance.

    “Mysterious Collapse of Building Seven: Why the NIST Report is Unscientific and False” by Professor David Ray Griffin (amazon) is a book Kenyan officials might study re: fire-induced structure failure.

  4. Rejoice Ngwenya Rejoice Ngwenya 2 October 2013

    Jillo is certainly right about one thing: even IF the terrorists had come via the highway, it is unlikely that they would have been apprehended. The system is too corrupt, much too corrupt to pick any evil intentions. As for ‘rented flats’, ‘rented shops’ and ‘surveillance’, I doubt whether African intelligence systems can pick such suspicious movements without tip-offs and telephone surveillance. If catching terrorists was THAT simple, Jillo, everyone would be safe. These things are so spontaneous and unpredictable. Metal detectors, CCTV cameras, infiltration deep into enemy structures and general vigilance are some of the ways of combating terrorism.

  5. Albury Smith Albury Smith 2 October 2013

    @george orwell
    Real SEs don’t divine the cause of a building collapse by its acceleration, or in the case of WTC 7, its EXTERIOR’s brief ~2.25-second period at g. Ask Box Boy* and his “experts” to demonstrate for you on video with audio how explosives or incendiaries secretly cut the 4.91″ flanges, 3.07″ webs, and 215 sq in cross sections of W14 X 730 columns like the 11 of 24 in WTC 7’s core, and the 4 corner columns in each tower’s core:
    If they ever HAD TO do it, this “debate” would be OVER.

    *Box Boy’s ONLY 9/11 “research”:

  6. george orwell george orwell 2 October 2013

    @ Smith – with all due respect, a random link and a cheap put-down – “Box Boy” – doesn’t cut it in terms of hard argument.

    The “Box Boy” your refer to is California-educated architect Richard Gage – a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – who has signed up well over 2000 credentialed building professionals at


    Let’s not stray off-topic.

    I was referring Jillo to “commissions of enquiry”, given the Kenyan govt has announced it will launch one.

    I asked him to keep an eye open for a truly independent commission, one that his country could be proud of. The world’s watching.

    The NIST report was never peer-reviewed and turned out to be the fox investigating the henhouse, given the govt-employed NIST director has a hard time understanding Newton’s Laws of Physics. See his embarrassing performance here:

    Kenya should not appoint government insiders to their commission.

    The 911 Commissioners themselves distanced themselves afterwards saying the Commission was ‘set up to fail’, ‘not the truth’.

    These are examples for Kenya *not* to follow, is what I’m saying.

  7. Albury Smith Albury Smith 3 October 2013

    The NIST findings are accepted by the ICC, ASCE, NCSEA, SEI, AIA, RIBA, structuremag . org, ENR, Journal of Engineering Mechanics, and the overwhelming majority of industry professionals and publications worldwide. The recommendations in the NIST WTC reports resulted in 40 revisions to the 2009 and 2012 I-Codes.
    The topic here is secret explosive demolitions in large cities, and I simply suggested that instead of dropping empty cardboard boxes on each other and divining the causes of building collapses by timing them (dishonestly), that your 9/11 “researchers” demonstrate their hypothesis on a representative WF core column used in all 3 of the collapsed WTC hi-rises.

  8. george orwell george orwell 3 October 2013

    @Albury – Could you please provide links to those organistions you cite?

    Links that indicate they all accept the NIST findings, as you assert ?

    Some have searched for those confirmations for years, without luck.

    These links would lay to rest the idea that the groups you cite have instead shamefully laid low and silent, as Newton’s Law of Conservation of Momentum was ignored by NIST …

    This list will prove your factual honesty.

    As to your hopeful ’40 revisions” – I suggest you read this:

    “Are Tall Buildings REALLY Safer Since 9/11?”

    The Westgate parking lot collapsed: Kenyan police now say they used a bazooka to break columns, leading to partial, asymmetric collapse. This sounds more like it – as their first story ( “burning mattresses”) sounded unscientific.

    Three extremely high steel skyscrapers fell symmetrically through the path of greatest resistance – in 7 and 11 seconds respectively – in NY, 2001.

    That’s not the main topic raised by me.

    I was referring to the in-house NIST and Commission Reports of those events.

    They’ve been studied and found to be riddled with lies of omission and scientific errors. “The 911 Commission: Omissions and Distortions” is a book available at

    Let’s hope Jillo keeps an investigative journalist’s eye on his country’s commissions,…

  9. george orwell george orwell 3 October 2013

    @ Albury – by the way, I have asked for a list of CONFIRMATION of ACCEPTANCE of NIST FINDINGS.

    I say this, because I do not want to see a long list of tangent articles, published here and there.

    As many have suggested – if those organisations you cite have indeed positively peer-reviewed NIST [officially NOT peer-reviewed until now] – then let us hear clear statements from them – and not get directed to lists of papers by jokers like Bazant – who pushed through a paper two days after 9/11, before the smoke had cleared or any forensics were conducted.

    Does there exist a group called “Architects and Engineers Who Fully Support the New Demolition Method – Rapid, Symmetrical Implosion Due To Fire – Which Puts All Demolition Companies Out of Business Forthwith”.?

    Can you point us to that organisation?

    I suggest it’s sorely needed now that Architects and Engineers for Truth has signed up its 2 061st building professional – including a couple of South Africans trained in the proud engineering departments of Stellenbosch and Wits.

  10. Albury Smith Albury Smith 4 October 2013

    If a link to a photo of a representative WF column is simply “random,” and articles favorable to the NIST WTC findings and easily searched on the ASCE web site are going to be dismissed as “tangent,” then you’re really not interested in the truth at all. Not surprisingly, you cited a chronic liar with a BS in chemistry as a peer of SEs with doctorates, PE certification, and decades of experience in their profession.
    Ryan was a signatory to the Bentham debacle, i.e. a paper that showed with extreme academic rigor that rust, sulfur, aluminum, etc. were present in some WTC dust samples, and then concluded that they “reminded” Harrit, Jones, et al. of nanothermite, despite showing no exemplars of nanothermite for comparison. The farce goes on to state that this nanothermite was painted on the steel and detonated to cut it, so let’s go back to my original suggestion, but paint the explosives on the 4.91″ flanges and 3.07″ webs of a W14 X 730.
    Your 9/11 “truth movement” isn’t supporting its own hypothesis with its fumbling assaults on real experts, and has only distinguished itself with its astounding mendacity:'thermitethermateclaims
    and ability to drop empty cardboard boxes on each other. Get some W14 X 730s, stand them up, and show everyone that the scientific method Box Boy jabbers stupidly about in his latest dog-and-pony show applies to him & his…

  11. george orwell george orwell 4 October 2013


    A clarifying quote, which should make all who work in high-rise buildings ask a couple of questions about safety:

    “Are tall buildings safer as a result of the NIST WTC report?

    ” No, they are most certainly not.

    “And if people actually understood and believed the official account of what happened at the WTC they would not enter tall buildings because in doing so they would be putting their lives at risk.

    “The truth, however, is that the NIST WTC investigation was

    – a politically motivated diversion

    – that produced reports which are known to be false.

    “This fact is re-emphasized by the knowledge that the international building community, including that of New York City, has NOT adopted code changes that can be traced to the root causes cited by NIST for the WTC destruction.

  12. george orwell george orwell 4 October 2013

    @ albury.

    Friend, let’s keep it civil and on-topic.

    I asked for a list of CONFIRMATION of ACCEPTANCE of NIST FINDINGS.

    You have not posted up this list, but resort to other arguments.

    You posited a long list of organisations that apparently all agree with the findings of the in-house NIST ‘investigation’ into three steel skyscraper implosions.

    I asked you to prove that all those organisations definitively back up NIST.

    You have thus far been unable to do so.

    Instead you resort again to “ad hominem”, calling people names.

    This is usually what people resort to, when they don’t have the hard data to support their claims.

    We can look at any number of photos of steel beams, or green parrots, but none of those photos will speak as loudly as reasoned analysis of hard data, premised on Newtonian Laws of Physics, which have served the modern world well.

    Check out this data put forward by scores of degreed professionals, willing to put their names and careers on the line:

    Experts Speak OUt:

    None of these scientists, physicists and engineers resort to name-calling.

    Their discourse is polite and fact-based.

  13. Albury Smith Albury Smith 4 October 2013

    Once again, fumbling attacks by grossly unqualified people on the NIST WTC investigations do nothing whatsoever to further the secret demolition “theory,” but showing that it’s even remotely possible would be a great start, and I suggested an excellent way to do it. 40 2009 & 2012 I-Code revisions will certainly make hi-rises safer, and the new WTC 7 and Freedom Tower are far better engineered than what they replaced.
    All who work in hi-rises should evacuate in case of a major fire, especially if airliners or falling debris sever the water supply to sprinklers and fire hoses. They should do so very quickly if the floors are only framed with bar joists weighing ~24#/ft and spanning 60′ feet, and let’s hope there aren’t too many steel-framed hi-rises with ~52′ W24 X 55 beams asymmetrically loaded on ~47′ girders which have simple gravity connections to interior columns.
    All who don’t work as SEs should leave forensic structural engineering investigations to SEs & other experts qualified and experienced enough to do them, not profiteering charlatans who divine the causes of building collapses by timing them (dishonestly), think room-temperature dust clouds that leave paper trails are “pyroclastic,” and that molten metal in debris fires months after a collapse is evidence of explosives or incendiaries.
    btw, here’s your liar heading for the hills FROM HIS OWN ARTICLE:

  14. Albury Smith Albury Smith 4 October 2013

    @george o.
    Previous link didn’t work. Search the title if this one doesn’t, and click on the Foreign Policy Journal link. The article by Kevin Ryan is “Do we need another 9/11 conspiracy theory?”
    The author of that drivel commented 2 or 3 times with only ad hominem toward me and then headed for the hills, and the editor eventually banned me for “trolling”; it’s standard practice in your 9/11 “truth movement” to censor dissenting commentary, but Hammond took longer than most.

  15. george orwell george orwell 5 October 2013

    @albury – thanks for the informative posts. I thought your name was familiar.

    Now I know it’s because award-winning investigative journalist Jeremy Hammond, editor of Foreign Policy Journal, banned you for trolling…

    You keep going on about “your 911 truth movement”.

    For the record I’d like to state I am part of NO movement, aside from Neighbourhood Watch and my kid’s school Parents’ Association.

    But the way you keep uttering that phrase with some contempt leads me to ask: what is the opposite of “the truth movement” (sic)?

    The Lie Movement? The Spin Movement? The Dissembling Movement? The Muddy-the-Waters Movement? The Paid-Sock-Puppet Movement?

  16. BrianB BrianB 6 October 2013

    Every country needs a leader with the backbone to shake the tree ,up the standards and eradicate corruption. Is Uhuru Kenyatta capable of achieving this ?

  17. Albury Smith Albury Smith 9 October 2013

    It’s too bad this “forum” censors facts and opinions it doesn’t like. I’d love to ask george orwell what awards “award-winning investigative journalist Jeremy Hammond” has won, and answer his question.

  18. achien achien 17 October 2013

    Brian B, i am a Kenyan, unfortunately our President is busy trying to look for an escape route, so no, he is not capable of achieving this. #mythoughts

  19. Joe Andile Joe Andile 22 November 2013

    The events that happened in Kenya will keep reminding us to always be at alert at all times, I am a South African currently living in Kenya, I think every country needs a very strong leader that could make firm decisions and stand by it and I think that’s what we are lacking in Kenya, I hope our leaders will learn from this

  20. Cynde Delaina Cynde Delaina 11 January 2014

    This web page can be a stroll-through for all the information you needed about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll undoubtedly uncover it.

  21. ecash kenya ecash kenya 28 November 2014

    The incident showed the resilience of Kenyans. We also had a lot to learn from the attack and I believe the government will be better prepared in not only dealing with but also preventing such attacks.

    Our challenge to the government of Kenya as is to make good use of intelligence reports. It is better to follow a report and come up with nothing than leave it out and suffer accordingly.

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