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Forgetting Westgate: How Kenya erases terrorism

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On the inside Nairobi’s Westgate Mall is a shiny shopping centre, all sparkling glass shop fronts, Bose-conveyed muzak and boutiques stuffed with expensive imports. On the outside it is a fortress.

Four years ago, Islamic militants raided the mall killing at least 67 people.

They tossed grenades over the balustrade from the pavement then stormed through the front entrance and up the car parking ramp shooting as they went.

The modus operandi was reminiscent of the Mumbai attacks five years earlier.

Yet Westgate has drifted into what Caine Prize-winning Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor describes as “our national propensity to amnesia for ‘bad things’.”
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Today a repeat assault would be hard to pull off. Tall metal railings and thick bulletproof glass line the mall on the pavement side. There are metal detectors, sniffer dogs and dozens of security guards at the entrances but unarmed in line with Kenyan law.

There is a ‘No Stopping At Any Time’ signpost close to where the terrorists stopped their car.

There are cosmetic changes on the inside as well. A gourmet burger joint where many died has moved from the ground floor terrace at the entrance to the third floor food court and replaced by a noodle bar.
ROOFTOP

The ground floor atrium coffee bar has been revamped, the main cafe reconfigured and the superstore — all sites of slaughter — relocated.

Other construction is still underway, which means the rooftop car park where children and their parents were killed at a cookery competition is out of bounds.

Gathara has pushed repeatedly and unsuccessfully for a public enquiry to answer the questions around Westgate.

The government line was that security forces heroically battled as many as 15 terrorists, armed to the teeth, during a four-day siege.

But in reality there were just four gunmen, the security response was too late for most of the dead who were killed in the first hours. During the subsequent days, it is alleged soldiers looted shops and blasted open safes before blowing up the rear of the building.

SECURITY

The Government Printer, an obscure department housed in a musty downtown office, is stacked with the reports of commissions of enquiry and investigations conducted, written up, filed and forgotten.

Gathara says he’s often asked why he bothers, “rehashing these things that we really can’t do anything about.”
Unlike the pure tragedies of Paris or Bamako, London or Barcelona, Kenyans know their security forces failed.

Worse still, the tragedy of Westgate has been sullied and cheapened.

This is one reason why Kenya has developed “a pathology of not only trying to forget but to obscure memory,” said Billy Kahora, a writer and editor at the Kenyan literary network Kwani Trust.

AL-SHABAAB

“Just throwing these things under the rug means they come up again and again and you’ve learned nothing,” says Kahora.

Two years after Westgate four more jihadist gunmen from the same Al-Shabaab group attacked a university in the eastern town of Garissa. They held platoons of soldiers at bay while murdering 148 mostly young, Christian students.

When victims’ families wanted to set up a memorial for the Westgate dead, they did so alone. A monument was put up in a forest, funded by private donations, and saplings were planted.

After the 2015 Garissa attack too it was left to family members and angry social activists to hold vigils. In both cases, the state was noticeably absent.

“All this trauma keeps piling up on people and at some point something’s got to give,” says Gathara.

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KENYA

Kenya’s supreme court has upheld the reelection of president Uhuru Kenyatta

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Kenya’s supreme court has dismissed two petitions against the Oct. 26 reelection of president Uhuru Kenyatta. In a summary of their judgment, the six-judge bench unanimously decided that the petitions had “no merit” and upheld his win for a second term.

“Having carefully considered the above issues, the specific players in each petition, as well as the constitution and the applicable laws, the court has unanimously determined that the petitions are not merited,” chief justice David Maraga said today (Nov. 20). “As a consequence, the presidential election of 26 Oct. is hereby upheld as is the election of the third respondent,” president Uhuru Kenyatta.

As per the constitution, Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto will now be sworn in on Nov. 28.

The decision comes after violence in the capital spiraled out of control over the weekend, leading to deaths, protests, and destruction of property. On Friday (Nov. 17), at least five people were killed as police dispersed supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who were welcoming him back from a trip abroad. Four people were also killed over the weekend, while an opposition lawmaker was shot in the leg during scuffles with the police. The opposition National Super Alliance coalition said that “state-sponsored thuggery” was plunging the country into a crisis.
In a majority decision in early September, Kenya’s supreme court called the August reelection of president Uhuru Kenyatta “invalid, null and void” and ordered a new vote be held in 60 days. After blaming the electoral commission for stonewalling meaningful deliberations, Odinga bowed out of the repeat polls in October and urged his supporters to stay home. Kenyatta won the redo with 7.4 million votes or 98% of the total, with more than 12 million registered voters not participating in the polls.

Rejecting the results as a “sham” and “a meaningless exercise,” Odinga called for a campaign of civil disobedience and peaceful resistance in order to safeguard Kenya’s democracy. He also called for an economic boycott targeting companies aligned with the government and the ruling Jubilee party. The results were also challenged in the supreme court by two cases: one filed by a former lawmaker and another by two members of human-rights organizations.

The uncertainty over the repeated elections and court rulings have also deepened the political crisis in the east African nation and intensified the sense of resignation among citizens. Citing political and economic marginalization, opposition-aligned regions have started calling for secession. The political and legal quagmires have also come at a huge cost for the Kenyan taxpayer, with about $600 million spent conducting the two elections.

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Intelligence report reveals Kenyan Al Shabaab leader likely to leave the terror group

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An intelligence report has revealed that Kenyan-born Al Shabaab leader, Ahmed Iman, is contemplating to quit the terror group after major fall-out with its leadership.

The report says the Imam wants to quit the group and its activities after he became disgruntled with the persistent killing of Kenyan fighters within the group’s ranks.

The dossier further notes that the spate of elimination and execution of Kenyans and other foreign fighters has brought a sharp division within Al Shabaab leading to hatred towards native Somalis.

“The Al Shabaab video and online propagandist, Ahmed Iman Ali fell-out with its leadership. It is reported he is negotiating his way back from Somalia.

It is not, however, clear if he stands a chance of making it from Somalia considering that Al Shabaab kills whoever attempts to leave. Iman has been very vocal against the execution of foreign fighters and is now weighing out his options,” the report. It further adds:

“Some Al Shabaab leaders are, however, wary of losing Iman within the ranks as he has proven to be a good propaganda tool through his videos which he does with charisma taunting AMISOM forces in fluent Swahili.” Iman is the leader of ‘Jaysh Ayman’. He has been instrumental in recruiting youth into terrorism and orchestrating attacks in Kenya.
The split is further accelerated by the battle on whom to pledge their allegiance to with one group led by former UK-based Abdul Qadir Mumin, who swore allegiance to ISIS in December 2015 immediately becoming target of exclusion. Al Shabaab has always pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda. Online war Al Shabaab’s intelligence wing (amniyaat) has on several occasions targeted the pro-ISIS splinter group whose top commanders have been executed alongside their fighters.

There has been an online war of words on Twitter where ISIS linked page, Jabha East Africa, blamed Al Shabaab of killing and imprisoning their leaders and fighters.

The Al Shabaab and ISIS supremacy war was put to test during the Mogadishu October attack where more than 350 civilians were killed and several others injured.

Even though none claimed responsibility, it is evident that the pro-ISIS group were rescarried out the attack to show Al Shabaab on how strong they are in executing suicide bombings. When contacted, the Somalia Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Abdirahman Omar Osman said that the government has come up with a Comprehensive Approach to Security (CAS) architecture in consultation with stakeholders and international partners.

“We now have plans to scale down AMISOM forces so that Somalia forces can take over the security of our country. We are optimistic We Africans are not good at publicising our successes and if this mission would have been in Western, the whole world would have known the success,” Osman said.

The minister said the October attack in Mogadishu was an act of desperation because the Somalia military and AMISOM are winning. Largest number The Information minister insists that his security counterpart is committed to implementing initiatives that include stabilisation of security within Mogadishu and removal of heavy guns from the city’s streets.

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Chaos and gunshots as Raila Odinga enters Nairobi CBD

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Chaos, teargas, running battles and suspected live bullets marred Nasa leader Raila Odinga’s entry into Nairobi city centre upon his arrival from the US on Friday.

Mr Odinga left Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in a convoy of tens of vehicles accompanied by a host of Nasa leaders and hundreds of their supporters.

GRIDLOCK

Chaos started immediately the convoy left the airport, with the vehicle ferrying Mr Odinga taking the wrong side of Mombasa Road.

This was because the route heading to Mombasa had a gridlock stretching kilometres following violent confrontations between police and Mr Odinga’s supporters in the morning.
The Nasa supporters wanted to force their way into the airport but police lobbed teargas canisters at City Cabanas and other sections of the road to arrest their march.
The convoy later diverted from Mombasa Road to Jogoo Road but the chaos followed Mr Odinga and his team as police engaged youths in running battles.

Their plan was to march through Jogoo Road on to Haile Sellasie Avenue, then into Uhuru Park, the venue of their rally, but the violent confrontations just would not stop.

LOSSES

The clashes between Nasa supporters and police brought business to a standstill on the busy road that serves eastern parts of the capital.

The City Stadium roundabout was brought to a standstill as police blocked the road in their bid to stop the chaos from spilling over into the town centre.

For the better part of the afternoon, no traffic was moving as traders closed kiosks and fled for their safety.
A minibus belonging to Forward Travellers sacco, a police lorry and two pull carts were torched outside Burma Market on Jogoo Road.

Along the road, smoke from burning tyres billowed and competed with the teargas police were firing without stopping.

BULLETS

From Rikana Supermarket all the way to Muthurwa Market, the road was littered with the rocks Nasa supporters were using to engage the police.

The chaos took a different turn at Muthurwa after Nasa supporters were engaged by rival group believed to be Jubilee supporters.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters are opposed to Nasa demos, which they argue disrupt businesses and lead to destruction of property and loss of lives.

Police used verbal orders, teargas and live bullets to restore calm and order on the road without much success.

They also sprayed the youths wit water canons but the Nasa supporters would not stop charging at them.

At some point, police resorted to using live bullets, with gunshots heard for a few minutes near Muthurwa Market.

A man was seen in writhing in pain on live TV after he was allegedly shot in the foot.

Reports indicate some protesters sustained fatal injuries in the clashed that lasted for over five hours.

JOURNALISTS HIT

Motorists and journalists were not spared as they were attacked and injured in the chaos.

A Nation car has been hit by a teargas canister lobbed by the police. The canister hit and smashed the car’s windscreen.

The officers fired the teargas as the car made its way through the Likoni roundabout to join Jogoo Road.
Inside the car the Nation reporters Silas Apollo, Brian Moseti, photographer Denis Onsongo and driver Nicholas Musyoka.

Earlier, police assaulted Mr Moseti at the airport and snatched him his staff badge.

RAILA

The officers accused the journalist of taking their pictures as they battled the protesters.

The attack on the car occurred in the convoy of Mr Odinga who was en route to the city’s central business district.

KTN journalist Duncan Khaemba was also hit and injured on the head as he reported the violence that was covered live by national TV stations.

Later, Mr Odinga, while addressing his supporters in Upper Hill, condemned the violence and accused President Kenyatta of sending police to disrupt his reception.

He vowed to soldier on with his quest for electoral justice and thanked his supporters for standing with him.

“This (police response) is a sign of a crumbling regime,” he said.

“The third liberation is unstoppable.”

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