Part 4: Nairobi Mall Shooting: The ‘Coup’ That Botched Up Rescue
“It was a coup.”
The speaker talks angrily at how a hostage rescue operation was botched up in the Nairobi Mall shoot-out on September 21.
The attack by an armed group claiming to be Al-Shabab left over 100 dead or missing. In the aftermath was a trail of looting and unanswered questions that prompted President Uhuru Kenyatta to announce the setting up an investigatory committee.
Sources privy to the early Saturday noon hours operation insist that the paramilitary police-led counter-attack was on the verge of ending invasion before operational command was wrenched from the police hands by a fatal bullet to unit commander Martin Munene.
The skilled police sharpshooter had received a call instructing him to rush to Westgate and help free the President’s relatives and others caught up in the ambush.
Just on the verge of arresting three of the attackers, having felled three more already, an alleged “friendly fire” bullet killed him.
“Friendly what … That was a cold blooded assassination. That was the only way they (Kenya Defense Force) could wrest control of the operation from (special) police hands.
“It was a coup … we were suddenly not only confronted by the attackers, but by our own men (KDF), who appeared from nowhere …”
This is how the “coup” occurred.
The specialist GSU Recce led by Munene had just failed in rescuing the President’s nephew Mbugua Ng’ang’a, fatally shot inside the ArtCaffe where he had been that fateful morning.
Upon delivering the news to the distraught president, a kitchen war council formed itself around the president even as Munene and his GSU team continued to meticulously free more hostages, just minutes away from his killing.
Around the president, strong arguments were made that the attack was targeting the president, suggestions were even made to move the Commander-in-Chief to a secluded location.
But the President had made indications he was going to address the nation in a short while, before nightfall, having received assurances from the operational commander, Munene, that the attackers only numbered six – three dead, three about to be arrested.
The assailants on Westgate were not wearing explosives. Using his field judgment, Munene knew this was not a suicide mission, but a quick attack and disappearance.
Strong arguments were made that the military should be sent to boost Munene and his team.
In the middle of the arguments, it is said Inspector General of Police Kimaiyo out-rightly rejected mobilising the military from the Embakassi barracks. The Constitutional threshold could not be fulfilled in time for the military to make any impact.
What are these Constitutional thresholds?
Kenya’s national security organs consist of KDF, the police, and the National Intelligence service, with the President holding overall command as the commander-in-chief. All three organs are not subordinate to one another and all have direct functions to the president.
The police are led by IG Kimaiyo, KDF by General Julius Karangi and the Intelligence service by Michael Gachangi. There is the Secretary of Defense, Rachel Omamo, who sits as the chairman of the Defense Council consisting of the Chief of Defence Forces, three commanders and principal secretary.
The military of Kenya cannot make a single deployment before the Defense Council sits and meets. The council has no powers to deploy military operation. The job of the council, through the chairman, Rachel Omamo, is to advise the president of the outcome of the council.
Did the council meet before KDF deployed to Westgate? No.
Further thresholds for the deployment of KDF could not have facilitated their lightning appearance at Westgate.
What are these?
Once the Defense Council has communicated to the president for a need for deployment (the defense secretary and the KDF General Gachangi have no powers to deploy the military), the president constitutes a sitting of the National Assembly to debate the military’s deployment.
Among functions of the KDF the Constitution states: “The Defense Forces … may be deployed to restore peace in any part of Kenya affected by unrest or instability only with the approval of the National Assembly.”
There was no such gathering of lawmakers on Saturday to deploy the KDF to tackle “instability” at Westgate.
Insiders report Rachel Omamo wanted the constitutional requirements fulfilled, and for this she was sidelined for the rest of the operation.
On the other hand, the (special?) police were managing the conflict, almost bringing it to an end and assuring the President to prepare for a “success” press conference.
Munene and the police were about to ruin somebody’s party and they had to be removed to the advantage of the attackers while at the same time justifying prolonged military engagement.
Munene was no stranger to the president, having performed numerous functions around the president and at many times playing the role of undercover escort for the president’s visitors.
The Commander-in-Chief was confident of his handling of the situation by the fact that Munene was on the ground and the president trusted him beyond reproach.
There was no taking away command of the operation from the police or Munene, only over his dead body.
That is what occurred, even though his death that Saturday has failed to receive official recognition.
As Munene gasped his last breath, it was whispered to the miserable President’s ear, that Olympus (the Police Command) had fallen and , his trusty commander Munene had also been felled by the terrorists.
His disbelief was obvious.
He had no time to query or argue what he was told –only to accept the fact the army Special Forces was on the ground and were assuming command, and err, if the press conference could be cancelled.
Leaning directly on the President’s ear was intelligence honcho Gachangi, General Karangi, and one individual who has a chummy relationship with the armed forces, Deputy President William Ruto (who was in digital touch from his Hague-based confinement).
The chairs of the defense, Rachel Omamo, the National Assembly, were not that close to the President.
Once the coup was executed at Westgate, the hallmark of such a takeover rolled into play resulting in bombings and looting.
An attack that could have ended within hours turned political with ramifications in far–reaching borders, such as the International Criminals Court in The Hague.
To be continued …
Nairobi Mall Siege botch up: The military antics and the roles of President and his deputy