The Westgate terrorist attack has been dubbed as the worst attack since 1998 when Alqaida bombed the United States Embassy in Nairobi, killing over 200 Kenyans and wounding over 1000 others. Since the attack entered the news stream on Saturday, September 21st, 62 people are reported to have died, 175 injured while the Kenya Defence Forces are reported to be in control of Westgate shopping mall which had allegedly been taken over by the terrorists.
Security briefings have continued throughout the time of the ordeal, President Uhuru Kenyatta has addressed the Nation twice, Deputy President, William Ruto, has been granted leave from the ICC to attend to the crisis, Kenyans have been praised for remaining united, Ksh 40 million has been donated to help operations, Clergymen have prayed for the victims while several messages on how the country will deal with the terrorists have been delivered by politicians. As the government continues to deal with the crisis, and from a careful gleaning of Kenya’s mainstream newspapers, there are certain key questions which no one seems to be asking. The questions are being posed here in good faith. They are as follows:
1. Foreign Terrorists
What happened to NSIS and the Ministry of Internal Security? This is because according to news briefs by Al-Shabbab (which has claimed responsibility for the attacks) many of the terrorists had residences in foreign countries with the United States, Britain, Canada, Finland and Sweden having been mentioned in this regard. How could this group of terrorists enter Kenya unnoticed, link up in a cell, acquire cars, guns and ammunition and organize a highly successful terrorist attack on Kenyan soil without the knowledge of Kenya’s security apparatus? Is the work of NSIS to track down ICC witnesses in order to intimidate and harass them or to guard against the enemy of the Al-Shabbab type.
2. Samantha Lethwaite
The name of Samantha Lethwaite, a white British woman from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (nicknamed “the white widow”), has popped up as possible mastermind of the Westgate attack. Samantha is a well-known terrorist wanted internationally. A report in the Kenyan media says that the body of a white woman terrorist killed during operations at Westgate could be that of Samantha. Her photos are all over the internet so assuming that the stories are credible, the next question is: how could she have sneaked into Kenya without notice?
3. What Happened to Terrorists?
Kenyans and the world were told that as at Saturday evening, at least 15 terrorists were holding about 30 hostages. By Monday evening, an official Press briefing by Internal Security Secretary said that almost all hostages had been rescued and that KDF were now “totally in charge” of all floors of Westgate shopping mall. During the rescue operation, it was announced that 3 terrorists had been killed and that 11 KDF soldiers had been injured. The question which arises is this: If all the hostages have been rescued, what happened to the terrorists who were reportedly holding the hostages? In any rescue operation of hostages being held by terrorists, and, by any stretch of the imagination, either the terrorists are usually killed to facilitate a rescue of the hostages or captured as hostages are freed. In the case of Westgate, how was it possible to free 30 hostages without either killing or capturing at least 12 other armed terrorists (3 were killed) who had managed to detain the hostages for more than 48 hours? So far, Kenyans have neither seen the bodies of the terrorists nor witnessed them being carted away during capture. Most importantly, is it really possible that all hostages could have been freed from Westgate without the terrorists being killed or captured or is this an off-the-mark question? That is: is it practically possible to snatch 30 hostages from the hands of heavily armed terrorists without the terrorists killing the hostages or the terrorists being killed by liberation forces?
4. Thirty Rescued Hostages
Honestly, Westgate has been surrounded by both the military and the media since Saturday afternoon when the terrorist attack came to light. How comes that during their rescue, and since they were rescued, there has been no single video footage or photo of the lucky few? Despite their number being large enough (30), there has been no single image of the released hostages, either being carted away by humanitarian agencies for further handling, hospitalized or being interviewed by the media about their ordeal. Images of hostages being rescued or being interviewed could have had a huge propaganda value for the government but in the case of Westgate, there has been no event so far. The big question that follows is this: were there 30 hostages at the hands of 15 terrorists in Westgate in the first place or was it just hype and hot air?
5. Escape from Westgate
The absence of the terrorist’s bodies (dead or alive) in the face of freed hostages they were allegedly holding could prompt a keen observer into asking the next question. Is it possible that majority of the terrorists may have escaped on Saturday together with survivors, leaving only a handful of terrorists (3 have been killed) behind to hold brief as Al-Shabbab propaganda rolled online? This question pops up because a survivor told a Kenyan TV station that he saw a terrorist changing into a pair of jeans before joining them to walk out of the Mall. In fact, a photo of a casually dressed terrorist captured on CCTV inside Westgate suggests that what it could have taken for a terrorist to walk away was simply to drop the gun and join the frightened crowd that was dashing for the entrance with hands up! Is it possible that majority of the terrorists simply walked away with hands up during the initial pandemonium and that all along, the nation has been led to believe that 15 terrorists were still in the Mall while majority of them had escaped? Remember, one terrorist was confirmed by the Interior Minister as having been arrested at JKIA on his way to Turkey so how many did escape? These could be weird questions but, on another note, it has to be taken into consideration that since the hostages were allegedly cornered by the terrorists, there has been no known communication between the terrorists and anybody outside Westgate. This was very strange because naturally, even if they did not intend to release the hostages, they could have been interested in sending a message as to why they had staged the terrorist operation – that KDF move out of Somalia. It is paradoxical that a terrorist group could succeed in staging a very sophisticated operation of the Westgate type and take hostages but fail to deliver their key message when opportunities of doing so were massive.
6. Delicate Matter
During his address, Uhuru Kenyatta did say that the government was moving slowly because the matter was “delicate”. The fragility of the matter lay in the possibility that the terrorists could kill all their hostages if they detected that there was any attempt by the government to rescue the hostages. How then was it possible for the hostages to be rescued before the terrorists could kill them, given that the captives were reported to be in a room where they were heavily guarded with guns literally on their heads?
7. Westgate Secured?
At a Press briefing on Monday evening, the Internal Security chief assured the nation that Westgate mall had now been fully secured by KDF (including all rooms). The next question is this: how comes that more than 10 hours after securing Westgate, journalists reporting live at the scene are still talking about heavy gun-fire inside the building? Are KDF firing guns in the air to create the impression that a heavy gun fire is in progress or who is fighting who if the mall has been “fully secured”? Surely Wakenya, excuse me but this thing does not make sense! Why are 40 million Kenyans being taken for a cool ride by representatives of a failed State led by suspects of crimes against humanity and not even the whole media establishment is able to see through it?
8. From Grenade Attacks to Mall Take-Over
When Kenya invaded Somalia, the intention was to prevent terrorist attacks. With this attack having claimed more than 60 lives, what is the government’s explanation as to what happened after Al-Shabbab was allegedly subdued, Mogadishu/Kismayu taken over and Al-Shabbab militants put out of business for good? Is there any explanation why grenade attacks have suddenly turned into a sophisticated mall take-over with even more deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of Al Shabbab terrorists who were supposed to have been all dead and buried following KDF victory in Somalia? Have the terrorists suddenly resurrected or what is the official government explanation?
9. Freedom of Expression
Kenyans have been warned from speculating especially in Social Media. Speculation comes about when information (especially on a key issue) is not forthcoming. Secondly, speculation is part of freedom of expression. The question is this: Does the Minister of Internal security know that by warning Kenyans against speculating when answers to key questions are not forth-coming, he is fundamentally violating the Kenyan constitution that guarantees freedom of expression?
10. New Tactic
Let us face it. The tactic that was used by the terrorists to take over Westgate is basically uncontrollable and can be duplicated over and over again until Jesus Christ comes back to save Kenya from suspected war criminals who are now fighting terrorists. A group of heavily armed terrorists drives and stops outside the gate of the target building. They then open fire as they enter the building. Even with four armed KDF soldiers at the entrance, the terrorists will gain entry especially if they are 15. The tactic could be repeated to take over any hotel, supermarket in town, government office building or any establishment that is not heavily guarded by a group of equally armed soldiers aka KDF. Far-fetched as it seems, they could even make a dare-devil attempt and storm the Office of President or DP Samoei’s hide-out, killing security officers and causing the DP to run for dear life this time round. Three questions therefore emerge: Is it possible for every key building, hotel, supermarket, cathedral, leisure park, stadium, bank etc (that are possible targets) to be guarded by heavily armed KDF forces just to prevent Al-Shabbab terrorists? Is it even affordable? Common sense dictates that this is impossible so why is the government cheating Kenyans that “the country is safe” when reality shows that every Kenyan inside the country could be living on borrowed time? Why is the Kenyan public accepting uncritically artificial assurances of security when evidence of the Westgate type shows that no one is safe including the stinking rich? Why are there no Kenyans demanding that KDF get out of Somalia, an expensive adventure that is responsible for the Westgate massacre and that will continue to haunt the country regardless of what politicians are saying at Press conferences?
Regardless of government propaganda about its handling of the Westgate attack, Kenya may slowly be entering into a ditch. If the country’s Intelligence Services is functional, it ought to borrow a leaf from the Israelis who know and understand that a bomb attack on the Palestinians usually triggers rocket attacks into Israel with heavy casualties on civilians. In this case, Somalia is our Palestine as we turn ourselves into Israelis while at the same time remaining in constant denial.
Kenya has millions of “soft targets” and as highly guarded top government officials continue to boast at Press conferences on the successes of the government on containing Al-Shabbab, innocent Kenyans will continue to pay the ultimate price in life and blood as Al-Shabbab continues to strike, left right and centre. The truth is that top brass within the government may be safe from Al-Shabbab but the ordinary Mwananchi remains permanently a vulnerable target and many Kenyans may be waiting to run scared to death from building with guns blazing behind them Westgate style. That is, if you still don’t know the name of Mohammed’s mother which is Aminah Bint Wahhab Ibn Abd Manaf Ibn Zahrah. The questions above are for reflection and one can only hope that at the end of the Westgate ordeal, they shall have been answered.