NAIROBI WESTGATE MALL ATTACK – AL SHABAB UNDISPUTEDLY WON THIS ROUND
It happened alright and it’s about time we face the brutal facts about the attack. Al Shabab undisputedly won this round. They knew our weaknesses as Kenyans and exploited that to their advantage. We may give ourselves hope but they outsmarted us and achieved almost every single one of their objectives in this attack.
The Shabab know all too well that the biggest weakness in our society is corruption. They exploited this knowing that the greatest dangers to Kenya come not from international terrorism, but from within, notably from a corrupt political system that serves as tragic reflection of a society scarred by ethnic division. They used this to gain entry into the country both for their men and ammunition. The largely unguarded 430-mile border with Somalia helps to explain Nairobi’s current ordeal. Our authorities are so corrupt to the extent that they even sell them our nationality. With the right sum of money, immigration officials would give illegal immigrants identification documents like the national ID and passport. The security forces would all too willingly let them into the country, of course at a “reward”. Corruption killed us and will continue to do so. Kenyans live under a terrible political system, riddled with tribalism. After this #WeareOne business and fake patriotism is over, we will go back to our tribal cocoons and continue fighting each other. The Interior minister for instance performed dismally during this crisis and a lot of us called for his dismissal. He probably deserves to be dismissed but if he does, his community will rally behind him claiming they are being targeted. The Shabab used this weakness to infiltrate us.
Credibility of the Kenyan authorities, or lack of it, was one of the victims of the siege at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. This played into the hands of the Shabab as they clearly questioned the capacity of the Kenyan authorities to handle such crisis. Constant reassurances came from the authorities that the mall was largely under control but that was clearly not the case. They prematurely declared victory even as blasts and gunfire could be heard from inside the mall many hours after the declaration. Kenya's foreign secretary, Amina Mohamed, told PBS, America’s public broadcaster, on September 23rd that one of the dead militants was a British woman. Yet the interior ministry on the same evening said all of the attackers recovered from the mall were male. Similarly confusing claims were made about the fate of the hostages, their number and locations. Some of the dead were even declared Insignificant by the Interior Secretary. It now emerges that intelligence sources knew of the imminent attack and raised a red flag but the authorities did nothing. This is probably why the Shabab had enough courage to carry out the attack.
The fact that it was reported only five terrorists were killed versus six Kenyan security officers is definitely a psychological victory for Shabab. Based on reports from the authorities it seems like “five” terrorists kept of a whole military regiment and other security forces at bay for four days as they are yet to recover any more attackers bodies. It is also emerging that due to this embarrassing scenario the army allegedly blew them up inside killing them with the rubble together with the hostages if there were any that is. As if that is not enough, it has also emerged that the security did not bother to secure a tunnel that leads out of the mall and some of the attackers may have escaped through it.
The terrorists got all the media attention they wanted. From local to international, mainstream to social media. In fact, they probably got more than they ever imagined they would get. This was probably their biggest achievement. They used this attack and the world media attention to pass on a strong message that they may have lost territory but they have not lost people. Al shabab could also have been sending a message to the jihadists in Syria that they have a job for them when they're done there. They had the balls to taunt the Kenyan people and their president directly via social media.
They taunted Kenyans by giving them the correct telephone numbers to dial for those who were affected. The same numbers that had been distributed by authorities. Many of their twitter handles were suspended following protests but this did not deter them from opening one handle after another and one thing they were guaranteed of is followers especially from journalists. Their propaganda machinery was effectively at work to a point they claimed that the Kenya Defense Forces used chemical weapons to kill the attackers and their hostages.
This is debatable, but Kenya’s restrictive gun laws could have been an enabler to the mall massacre. The hapless victims had no similar response options, as Kenyan law effectively assured the Al Shabaab militants a guaranteed unarmed victim pool. In Kenya, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law, "law-abiding" mall shoppers who may own guns in compliance with all the restrictions know that carrying a firearm in plain view in a public place is prohibited and carrying a concealed firearm in a public place is also prohibited. The terrorists knew this, and this did not stop them but instead actually guaranteed them the body count and media attention they craved.