Westgate Mall Siege: Destiny with failure

Argwings Odera

ImageA group of men sat around a television screen in a pub on Kiambu road,  keenly watching what was broadcasting that Saturday noon hours.

“Don’t touch the TV,” they almost shouted in unison as a technician attempted to adjust the screen resolution.

“I know them, they are my friends, but that day they turned on me in such a way, they did not want to miss a second of what was going on,” recalls the technician who does not want to be named because of the controversial nature of what transpired thereafter.

It was on September 21, a picture perfect day, especially in Nairobi Westlands.

The perfect picture was ruined by television images of bloodshed, people running like headless chickens and gunshots and explosions could he heard from the pub’s TV,  less than ten kilometers away.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killing spree of civilians, demanding that Kenya withdraw its troops that went to fight the organization inside Somalia.

The television images were gruesome.

Then the cellphone of one of the men, Martin Munene rang. His eyes still glued to the television, he answered without consideration to the caller. The conversation lasted less than a minute before Munene yelled in Kiswahili at the group glued to the TV screen:

“Twende kaaaziii!!!” (Lets go to war!)

The men, and some others in civilian dress rushed the exit of the pub like a rugby team going for the “scrum”.

Munene, son of  Kithinji Kiria, from Meru was no civilian. He was a highly decorated, internationally trained police sharpshooter of the elite General Service Unit. The elite unit is divided into three; Sky Marshall trained to fight in-flight, the Rendition Unit, trained to provide and fight to death for the security of visiting heads of state, and finally Recce, formally named Crisis Team, the unit that Munene was a high ranking officer.

The role of Munene and his team is to respond to high-level operations, on occasions reinforcing 20 other field companies, to detonate explosives, guard vital installations, anti-terrorism and covert operations. They are specially trained in Israel and U.S. and boast high academic qualifications and unique skills such as the ability to stay immobile and endure discomfort, Olympic grade pugilism, the ability to fight underwater, among many other skill-sets.

On that picturesque Saturday, three inconspicuous old second-hand Japanese cars, belonging to Munene and crew, suddenly transformed into an armoury, just like in the Transformer movies, inclusive of explosives, to the horror of the car-wash guy who was rubbing the cars for small change.

The other men in the pub left the screen briefly to marvel and unravel their long time “civilian” drinking partners.

Munene rushed to the boot of his car, witnesses recall, hauled a blue-black bullet proof vest. His colleagues also ran to the other cars and indulged in a weapon extraction orgy only similar to morbid soccer fans reaching out for free stadium tickets.

Out came the dark sunglasses, a standard weapon for elite units to block eyeball to eyeball contact.

“They pulled out big American M16 rifles,” recalls the parking attendant.

They stuffed “small black tennis balls” (grenades), strapped bayonets to their right knees, pistols to their thighs, slung ammunition belts around their shoulders, plugged on tin helmets, shoulder strap radios … the cars were moving with doors open as the men threw fashion to the ground and enthusiastically ran out for combat with Al-Shabab, an enemy they had studied and preferred to engage with.

Meanwhile, about 20 kilometres away at the Embakasi military garrison, also watching the picture-imperfect Saturday, were members of another elite special assault unit, the Kenya Defense Force or Kenya Army Paratroopers from the “D” Company of the 20th Paratroopers Commandos, equivalent in training and skill to the British SAS (Special Air Service). They were about to receive a call and head for direct conflict with the cousin Recce, their objective similar, to fight Al-Shabab into defeat in an indoor battlefield.

To be continued … Westgate Mall Siege: Headlong into Failure

About Argwings

Freelance Investigative Journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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