HEIGHT OF WICKEDNESS-WESTGATE MASSACRE

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It was a hallowing ordeal, horrific, bloody and unfortunate. In what started as a typical sunny Saturday for most of us turned out to be one the worst and dreadful weekends. I remember getting the news of some gunshots at Westgate around 11 in the morning and I quickly rubbished that as a normal robbery which would be contained in no time. But it is only when I got home and switched the T.V, and for minutes I stood still not certainly believing what I was watching. Survivors run out of the building covering their mouths seemingly very traumatised.Image They were so close to death, fresh blood was strongly smelling, screaming victims and crying children was the ambiance.

I happened to sample exclusive photos of dead people lying all over the top floor of Westgate which also served as a car park. The terrorists were so inhumane that they went under the cars parked to kill those who had hidden. A cross section of children and their parents full of life minutes ago quickly changed to scenes akin to Syria.

The terrorists had smartly planned their operation, taking advantage of weaknesses in our national security system. In fact one international newspaper was quoted saying, “behind this terrorism act is massive corruption.” I tend to concur fully, how these terrorists got to Kenya months ago, how they finally got valid I.Ds, how they rented a stall within Westgate, how they brought in armories inside the building with all the security details are questions that beg answers.

The intelligence was found flat footed.Its time to hold people accountable. Without intelligence we are cooked. We must move with time, embrace technology and hire people who understand what terrorism is. I was moved by a story I read in the papers this week about a kid who wrote a composition that is now helping detectives. It all started when a class teacher, told the pupils to write a composition about their weekend. So this kid wrote about how a stranger saved their mother who is also pregnant. The stranger told the mother to quickly walk out of Westgate as there was to be a stampede and people would be killed. This tells how the terrorists were strategically positioned waiting for their accomplices to arrive.

Hard questions must now be asked starting with; How many terrorists were involved in that attack? Kenya government has maintained they were 10-15 but international media is estimating 25-30 heavily armed ? Secondly, how many were killed and where are the rest? Thirdly, what is the fate of the said 30 hostages? Forth, who was responsible for caving in of the upper floors? Fifth, what is the fate of the missing people who are estimated to be over sixty? Sixth, how did the terrorists manage to get in Kenya and indeed rent a stall inside Westgate? Seventh, was there an insider with some connections to management of the building who helped them get the architectural plan of the building, CCTV and power main centers of the building? Eight, how come the police discovered of the tunnel so late? Was Samantha Lewthwaite involved?

ImageI rest my case hoping someday we will get answers. I also hope we learnt as a country, that security starts with you and me. There is so much that our security agencies can do but without community policing and co operation they won’t achieve much.

I pass my condolences to the bereaved,Image may the Lord grant you peace of mind and comfort you at this difficult time, may their souls rest in God’s love. For the maimed, quickest recovery. We as a country must refuse to die prematurely in the hands of criminals.

As the president said, our heads are bloodied but unbowed.

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REWRITING OUR KENYAN STORY

ImageWe have consumed a lot as a country, mostly choosing to skew negative about where we are, 50 years after independence. The obvious elephant in the house is the cases in ICC which to a great extent over shadow our Kenyan enthusiasm. Naturally it has never been pleasant being on the international map for all the wrong reasons. But somehow this brings out our ‘Kenyanese’, resilience is a perfect word which best depicts our unique way of ‘moving on’.

A lot has been documented about the jubilee year, for many it is a basket full of mixed reactions. We shamelessly pass the blame to our leaders. But they did not come from Mars, they are part and parcel of who we are anyway. Having said that, I choose to have a different perspective of where are, obviously having made serious mistakes in the past, but who doesn’t. For a long time we have overlooked many unsung heroes and success stories made in Kenya.

In August 2010, Imagewe promulgated a new constitution giving way to a new political dispensation which was unheard of in the past. It encapsulated and addressed boldly a bill of rights which is arguably one of the most comprehensive in the world. Where we are now, 2 years later, can be attributed to the new constitution . Of course we have a long way going forward, but what matters at least is the first step.

Nairobi Stock Exchange, which is our financial leverage hub is a top performer in the continent , after Nigeria even when threatened by many challenges including the latest VAT Act. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is investing somewhere in Kitui.Think of the ingenuous fast growing ICT sector in the country, with customised innovations starting with an award winning Mpesa platform.Just the other day, three Kenyan teens made it the list of 15 finalists of ‘Google Science Fair’ a competition which had over 120 countries with their project, ‘Can heat and tomato produce electricity’. In Murang’a a form four is generating electricity from a nearby river and serving the whole village.

Think of how far our sports sector has come, despite the many odds. Kenya athletes have been a force to reckon for decades, rugby growing pretty fast even before we roll out full professional players. Last week I watched our volley queens, lamenting of lack of government involvement in their preparations, but they went ahead to win the African cup. Which country does that. Do you remember the ‘You tube Man’,  Julius Yego going all the way to the London Olympics without a coach. Aren’t we unique and blessed.

Our very own Lupita Nyong’oImage is doing rounds all over in Hollywood even featuring in a movie with the likes of Brad Pitt. ’12 Years A Slave’ which debuts in October should be a movie to watch .Her other works include an award winning MTV series ‘Shuga’ amongst many other other acting projects. ‘In my Genes’ has been one my favourites, a powerful documentary which highlighted the plight of people living with albinism in Kenya. The likes of Winnie Ojanga a Kenyan based in Switzerland are doing us proud in the fashion industry. 

Victor Wanyama is a brand every Kenyan football enthusiast reveres. Even with prolonged football wrangles, he went ahead to become the first player from Eastern Africa to play in English Football. That was huge and unbelievable. Back in Kenya, What brings us more together more than Safaricom Sevens. We quickly emanate from our tribal cocoons to bring out the best in us, enjoying rugby, camouflaged by beautiful people and some good music. Why do we never stretch this to our places of work?

Motivational speaker Walea Akinyemi calls it the power of one. It is through one, that teams and societies are formed, revolutions are witnessed and success stories are told. Lets start with a Kenyan smile perhaps.

WAR-TORN NORTHERN KENYA

garrehWe all tired of the conflict in former Norther Eastern province precisely Wajir and Mandera Counties which seems to be the epicenter of two major rival communities, Garreh and Degodia .Since January this year, at least 70 people have been killed and many displaced due to this clashes, but wait a minute; It is not due to the usual fodder we are fed year in, year out, about pastures and water, its emerging tensions caused by political disagreements.

The Degodia feel disadvantaged by the outcome of last election where most of the political positions were carried away by Garreh community locking the former both in legislative and administrative posts.The situation is complicated by the porous border of Ethiopia and Somalia where access to fire arms is as easy as going to buy airtime in a shop. But an interesting aspect is shaping up, leaders are holding numerous ‘peace meetings’ with usual ‘PR stunts’ and then going behind the scenes to incite their communities.

According to one news agency Garre Online, even prior to March 2013 elections, politicians from Degodia community financed militias to intimidate and evict Garreh people from their settlement to render the area homogeneously Degodia. But that is one side of the coin, Degodias in return have accused the news agency of fueling negative propaganda to instigate their displacement from the land they only have.

Many may ask, where is national intelligence in all this, is it reactive as usual? Not once have politicians been summoned to CID headquarters, what happens next? Your guess is as good as mine. Politicians have been funding militias even from Ethiopia to cause displacement of perceived enemies. The attackers do not use usual local machetes, their weapons are more sophisticated from AK-47 guns to rocket propelled grenades (RPG).Revenge is order of the day, humans have been reduced to mere empty souls being shot without a blink of the eye. Government has chosen to be a mere spectator, choosing not to exercise one of its responsibilities of protecting its citizens which is anchored and more importantly a preamble of the new constitution.

The sad reality is that, retaliation attacks are escalating by the day. Who will save the innocent lives? For how long will a our leaders be myopic? Where are religious leaders?

PERSPECTIVE ON SYRIA

ImageOn August 21st this year, chemical weapons were at play in Syria in what security pundits term as ‘sarin nerve gas’. At least 1,400 people died many of them children, quite unfortunate. The attack caught the West hands off and totally oblivious. No one has claimed responsibility but as expected, opposing camps are busy trading accusations. The rebels are alleging Assad’s administration is behind the attacks, on the other hand the latter is fiercely defending itself even going further to purport it was stage-managed by rebels. 

Assad and company are daring the West to make good their threat to use unilateral military action. The argument they have is that, rebels executed the attacks to compel U.S and its allies to act on Assad by over throwing him. So what options does Obama have ? Last year, he made it clear that U.S would take action if Syria crossed the ‘red line’ and there is evidence it has. As CNN would put it, his choices are bad, worse and horrible. For starters, its closest ally, Britain’s support was slowed down after its parliament rejected use of its military in Syria.Image Closer home, Americans are divided down the middle, only half the population support use of military power and more interesting, over 80% say it should happen with congressional approval.

The biggest headache for Obama is complicated by the fact that Al Qaeda has infiltrated the rebels. Equipping them could be counter productive akin to what happened in Libya, the oppressed may turn out to be the oppressor. Iran, Syria’s big brother is also likely to come in handy to assist an accomplice once the West pounces. Worse still, Syria has had enough time to hide its weapons and any action by U.S to send drones may end up in deserted buildings if not to civilians.

The world is getting tired of Syria, three years down the line over 100,000 people have been killed. China and Russia are playing safe and are against any efforts of the U.N security council which they are member countries to act, by imposing penalties on Syria. They have categorically said they are not taking sides and are pushing for a transitional government as opposed to entirely over throwing Assads government which might cause worse problems. 

Syria has not attacked any U.S targets nor its citizens hence the need for Obama to consider a coalition of countries to demystify the notion that America is encroaching sovereignty of the Arab country. However Obama made a smart move to drag congress in this mess in case it haunted him in future. Republicans who will not ratify America’s use of military will have a hard time justifying themselves. A simple reason would be, if America does not act now, it will encourage Iran to proceed with its nuclear weapon program which is more catastrophic. 

The future is grim, America is at a crossroad, Obama is confused. He is riding on one choice, to keep waiting and hope for more evidence on use of chemical weapons,some  new ally or better still new intelligence.