PHOTO / FILE Troops leave the Westgate Mall.
NATION MEDIA GROUP
Sunday, October 06, 2013
Kenya’s respected military is facing a crisis of confidence
following claims that soldiers may have looted property and cash as they
battled terrorists at the Westgate mall two weeks ago.
is particularly tough for the military that has long been held in high
regard by Kenyans as compared to the police force, which always takes a
beating in opinion polls over corruption.
the Kenya Defence Forces went a notch higher after a well-planned
onslaught against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, which started in
October 2011 and culminated in the seizure of the all-important port of
Kismayu last year.
A report of the Monitoring Group on
Somalia estimates al-Shabaab generated up to Sh774 million ($9 million)
annually from trade in charcoal and sugar through Kismayu.
in the aftermath of the Westgate mall attack that has left at least 67
people dead, respect for KDF seems to have gone downward a few notches,
given the sentiments expressed on social networking sites Twitter and
Facebook in the last few days.
least 21 of the 85 entrepreneurs who own shops in Westgate have filed
reports with the police saying their property had been looted. Most say
their items were intact when they visited their shops on Tuesday, just
after the siege ended.
The missing items included
expensive jewellery, cash and electronics. A video of Art Caffe
restaurant posted on YouTube showed dozens of empty beer bottles.
have arisen over what could have happened to the property and fingers
pointed at KDF personnel who were in the building for three of the four
days the mall was under siege.
Filing a report of the same, Citizen TV headlined their story as the “Looters Army” while NTV dubbed it the “Looters Brigade”.
soldiers were fingered as the prime suspects because they took over
operations inside the mall from the Recce Squad of the General Service
Unit in the early hours into the attack.
has protested its innocence and said anybody with missing property
should file a report with the police promising stern action against
“KDF’s conduct inside the mall was
guided by international standard operating procedures that govern such
missions,” said Defence Secretary Raychelle Omamo.
“The allegations, therefore, came to us with consternation and we as a ministry are committed to get to the bottom of it.”
spokesman Maj Emmanuel Chirchir appeared to be fighting a losing battle
on social media as he tried to contain vitriol from Kenyans.
“It was sad to be labelled LOOTERS ARMY; it was saddening to be labelled LOOTERS BRIGADE,” tweeted Maj Chirchir.
announced that more than Sh300 million was “repatriated” (transferring
cash to safer outlets) from the banks, Forex bureaus and casinos at
“KDF did a fantastic job, we know our enemies who have
decided to use propaganda to undermine our public good will,” said Maj
But Lieutenant-General (rtd) Humphrey
Njoroge, once Commandant of Kenya’s National Defence College, criticised
the military as having “lost the plot at Westgate”.
Furious Twitter users were unconvinced by Maj Chirchir’s explanations.
have also questioned the rollover of command from the elite Recce squad
to KDF’s Special Forces and whether crucial time and tactical advantage
was lost to the terrorists.
Flow of information during and after the siege has been in a disarray, fuelling the criticism.
Ms Omamo and Maj Chirchir have maintained that no money was lost, Col
Cyrus Oguna, another military spokesman, had told the Sunday Nation last
week that a bank and casino lost Sh2.9 million to looters in the wake
of the attack.Col Oguna said that Barclays Bank lost Sh1.9 million while
the Millionaires Casino said it lost Sh1 million.
new criticism comes hot on the heels of a damning report by UN monitors
who accused Kenyan soldiers in the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia of
facilitating illegal charcoal exports from the port city of Kismayu.