FINAL Part of Nairobi Mall Killings: How Shift in US Policy Boosted Westgate Terrorists


[CAPTION] Resilient Kenyans: James Maina attempts to carry on with his normal Sunday activities at a car park turned roller-skating ring on the second day of terror. A local media house cancelled a big skating event at the venue because of the attack.

Argwings Odera

Red stains upon the marble floor, upset shopping trolleys and the uncomprehending faces of wounded children was not the usual shot a snapper would capture inside an elitist shopping mall in Nairobi.

The four walls of Westgate mall, with heavy Israeli business investment, transacted close to a billion shillings (US$10 million) everyday from the cash machines, banks, casinos, shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Most reassuring was the monotonous buzz of the handful of detector robots, the boot of the car shakedown, fish-eye mirror under the vehicle chassis, surveillance camera – the purpose was to build a fortress to ward off the wiliest, armed and dangerous modern robber – not terrorists.

As the echoes of noon faded from various portable timers that Saturday September 21, the buzzer failed at Westgate. The security collapsed. The robbers did not show up. This was another creature that did not even care for cash, something far more horrifying; they thirsted for blood.

It appeared the President and Commander-in-Chief, Uhuru Kenyatta, was directly under attack after it was reported to him his nephew Mbugua Ng’ang’a had been shot dead inside ArtCaffe. Barely minutes had passed and the president was informed again the attackers had killed his key operational commander, Martin Munene, a specialist anti-terror operative of the crack squad Recce unit, carved out of the elite and all-Israeli trained General Service Unit (GSU) wing of the Kenya police.

Munene’s death was widely reported as friendly fire from Kenya Defense Force (KDF) soldiers, a matter that has raised disputes and accusations that it was a “friendly coup” to put the public in a prolonged state of terror, so that a non-related external agenda could be exploited.

“Why are they not telling you Munene’s field assistant was also shot and is in critical condition in hospital right now as we speak?,” says the tired-looking security insider.

Munene’s assistant (Ed: name withheld for security reasons), lies in critical condition inside the Forces Memorial Hospital in Mbagathi Way after receiving a single bullet in the stomach from the charging KDF.

Spirits have been low at the Ruiru-based Recce Training School since the terror attack at Westgate.

US Policy

Even prior to that, morale was already low after the US downgraded its cash involvement in anti-terror in favour of another controversial, extra-judicial hit squad FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team) commandos.

The hit squad is already established in nine countries- Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, South Africa,  Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize – their mission, to kill drug kingpins.

US President Barrack Obama desired creating a brand new, elite, extra-judicial force of his own since the anti-terror elite squad had been a creation of the former Bush era.

This heralded the rapid creation of the FAST commando unit with powers to pursue drug kingpins and kill beyond US soils as promoted by William Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and Jeffrey P. Breeden, the Chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Europe, Asia and Africa.

The country units known by the guarded acronym VU (Vetted Unit) is carved from select members of the local police and US commandos, with the powers to kill drug lords. They are armed and paid directly by the US in accordance with the DEA programme.


In the elite unit’s possession is a comprehensive list from the Department of State and pictures of drug kingpins in East Africa, among them was Sheikh Aboud Rogo, a Muslim cleric based in the East Coast of Mombasa.

The GSU Recce had preferred to haul Rogo to court on charges of illegal possession of firearm contrary to expectation of terrorism charges. As the case dragged on, the new boys in town, Obama’s boys, VU of FAST, it is alleged, struck killing Rogo hot on the heels of a UN Security Council report that had cited the cleric, and close associates, as drug traffickers.

While the anti-terrorism unit has had its wings clipped in terms of extra-judicial powers through legislation, the new FAST unit is still flying without hindrance and far more extra-judicial reach than the anti-terror squads previously enjoyed under George Bush.

In an operation in Honduras last March, the new elite unit, FAST, killed two suspected narcotics agents, an action that the US has been at pains to deny direct involvement.

While the attackers of Westgate prepared their shocking entry, the Kenya Intelligence were busy working for FAST; looking the other direction at another cleric cited as a Rogo associate Sheikh Ibrahim Ismael (now also dead), Senator Gideon Mbuvi Mike Sonko (Nairobi), Governor Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa), and a bunch of deported Nigerians.

It is in Obama’s elite unit FAST that the money had been shifted by Washington and this was the area of focus for the Intelligence service led by Michael Gachangi, an arm of the national Security Council also consisting of the Police led by Inspector David Kimaiyo, KDF headed by Julius Karangi and Defense Secretary Rachel Omamo as equal partners. The President is the Commander-in-Chief who cannot act alone and must involve a sitting of the National Assembly, according to the devolved system of government.

Days following the attack at Westgate, the quarrelsome relationship between these three key arms of security emerged botching up a rescue effort and leading up to an unnecessary state of terror. Each arm, prior to the attack, was competing for the president’s direct ear instead of the required constitutional conformations.


Even as the attack reeled on television, inter-agency security differences were boiling over in the president’s ear until KDF chose to subvert the constitution and march in at the behest of Ruto who was still bogged down with his trial at The Hague, according to sources who require anonymity.

It is not the first time the Deputy President has shown the Commander-in-Chief that he has commanding authority over KDF despite the fact that his office is detached from links with security apparatus.

In May, Ruto was reported to have deployed the military for operations in Marsbit, a subject that angered MPs Aghostinho Neto (Ndhiwa), Chris Bichage (Nyaribari Chache) and Kenneth Okoth (Kibra)  saying;

“The Constitution clearly stipulates in Article 241 that it is only Parliament that has powers to order for the deployment of the military. Under what powers did Ruto order deployment of the military to Marsabit?

“Failure by the Executive to adhere to the constitutional provision is an affront to parliament and the laws of the republic. We must avoid a situation where one person wakes up in the morning and gives directives in total disregard of the law,” Okoth said.

The matter came to pass without controversy, until again the unseen hand of Ruto appeared to order the military out to Westgate, take control of an ending siege and extend it until the ICC conveniently gave Ruto a break from trial.

In fact, it was the post-election violence that initiated the competition between Kenya’s security forces, the same unhelpful competition that derailed the government’s Westgate operation.

The sour relationship among the local security agencies (police, army and intelligence) spiked after the 2007 contentious general election violence that left thousands dead or displaced.

Kenyatta and Ruto are facing crimes against humanity at the International Criminals Court (ICC), alongside journalist Joshua Sang for killings and displacements that took place during this period. When the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) investigated Kenya, at the behest of the National Assembly, a large portion of their report was informed by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the police (Kimaiyo), Intelligence (Gachangi) and KDF (Karangi).


All arms not only blamed each other before former ICC Prosecutor Luis Gabriel Moreno Ocampo, the NGOs and security agencies built up a huge part of the evidence against the two principal accused, Uhuru and Ruto.

The NGOs worked wholeheartedly with the OTP to prove Uhuru and his party leader Mwai Kibaki played direct roles in not only igniting the violence, but sustaining the flames that left Kenyans in their thousands killed, maimed and displaced.

Alongside the NGOs, the KDF (Karangi) also provided its own intelligence to OTP showing how Kibaki and Uhuru used the police (Kimaiyo) to expose Ruto’s supporters to Uhuru’s supposed killer gangs.

Police, nursing sour backsides after the KDF rolled into Rift Valley and kicked them out of field operations, also documented how KDF was involved in mass removals of PNU supporters from the Rift Valley after the moved in.

The army, according to charges at the ICC, is among others that were used by Ruto in his alleged scheme of mass displacements of supporters of his rival Uhuru.

Intelligence, as usual, washed its hands clean before the OTP accusing the police of incompetence for not acting on its intelligence early. The police replied that the intelligence agency provided fuzzy, hazy intelligence with no specifics, and that the Intelligence was involved in inciting violence.

Three of the core witnesses representing these institutions have died, men who could have stood the dock to answer questions related to the three security agencies. The dead core witnesses are Prof George Saitoti (police), Orwa Ojode (assistant security), Njenga Karume (Defence) and John Michuki (intelligence).

There has been a concerted campaign to portray ICC witnesses as liars driven by the greed of poverty. The NGO, key witness against Uhuru, has received a resounding thumping in Kenya.

Only hours before the Westgate attack, NGO luminary Maina Kiai told a press conference of how his life was in danger and threats from Uhuru Kenyatta supporters to burn out of existence, his family, because of his role at the helm of the Kenya Human Rights Commission vis-à-vis the ICC.

Even as the attackers finalized their terror plan, a concerted campaign was on-going from multi-sources to portray ICC witnesses as traitors.

Who was behind all this campaign?

To manage his image, Uhuru engaged the British firm BTP Advisers run by Mark Pursey, of the infamous Rwanda genocide “website attack”. He markets himself on his website as one with “extensive polling and message development experience having worked on every UK General Election campaign at a national level from 1992 to the present.”

While trying to get a job to cover up child labour in Uzbekistan on behalf of the government in 2011, undercover reporters of the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (BIJ) recorded Pursey admitting: “We had a very controversial issue over who did what in the (Rwanda) genocide. So the second site being much more a kind of attack site on people who over-criticise.”

Skillfully, Pursey managed to make critics of Kagame’s regime appear like traitors and supporters of genocide. In Kenya too, the campaign was moving in similar tone to the Rwandan one, with Uhuru critics dubbed as ICC snitches and traitors, the manager, Pursey.

While most eyes, including Intelligence ones, were focused on the plight of Kiai and other individuals who made contact with the ICC, the attackers were exploiting discordance in the security organs to move forward with their plan. It is like they knew exactly how it would play out, how the police would be kicked out, the tunnel, the KDF, the looting and a bombed end result that would annihilate any clue.

The three floors that crumbled at Westgate were meant to shake as far as the ICC. But this is where the plot went wrong and the Interior Minister Joseph ole Lenku started waffling.

The blood could have clotted from crimson red, to a permanent black stain, the upset trolleys may have been rightened, the children lost lives and innocence, waffle as he would, the fact stays –the ramifications of Westgate is yet to be felt beyond the borders of antagonistic neighbours Kenya and Somalia.


About Argwings

Freelance Investigative Journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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