Failure by government and state agencies at Westgate last year is no longer a matter of debate. Kenya’s political leadership, security and defence organs all failed, square. There is consensus about this across the political divide.
Yet no one will be held accountable. This is the outstanding matter that festers one year on after September 21. Without full accountability for the failings at Westgate, there is no reason why it cannot happen again.
Right from the top: the Presidency, cabinet, the police and Kenya Defence Forces – all these organs acted like hapless novices throughout the siege and terror at Westgate. They all failed without exception.
By virtue of the authority conferred them and job descriptions, Kenyans expected and deserved leadership, truthfulness, intelligence and effectiveness from these officials in their response to the terrorist attack.
Instead, the men responsible for national security resorted to blunt deception and ego flapping.
The military and police commands competed to outdo each other before the cameras, often giving unverifiable, conflicting information. For both commands, response was late, confused and ineffective. It got even worse and dangerous for first responders and those still trapped in the mall the moment KDF units got in.
President Uhuru Kenyatta promised Kenyans an inquiry but that still remains a promise, even a mirage one year later. I think no one will be held accountable over Westgate any time soon. There are simple, entirely personal reasons for this.
The most obvious reason is that all those that failed at Westgate are tightly connected individuals. Their ties to one another are not about their political nor professional duties to serve the Kenyan public but personal loyalty as bosom friends.
Their mosaic is that of a team of happy go lucky flops who can only lie to the nation to survive another day on the public pay roll. No single section of these public officers has moral command to hold the other accountable. They failed as friends and not as public officers. So no friend will get fired.
Secondly, it is highly likely that the National Security Council (NSC) already knew something about September 21 before it happened. But they failed to act. This will be too damning if let out in a public inquiry like the one promised by the president. The presidency is a part of NSC. So there will be no public inquiry. This is exactly how impunity looks.
Without a serious independent public inquiry on Westgate, we will never get to know, for example what the Presidency knew about September 21, when, and what the Commander-in-Chief did about the information. Kenyans will never know what the Inspector General of Police knew, when he got to know it and what he did with the information. We might never get to know what exactly led to the kind of operational and command irresponsibility witnessed at Westgate.
The last, and perhaps more worrying reason why we should not expect anyone to be held accountable for the failings at Westgate has something to do with the sex of the people in charge of our national security and defence. Retrogressive masculinity is a dangerous thing.
As devotees of outmoded masculinity, the men of power that failed at Westgate will never take responsibility for their failings. They won’t even apologize for letting Kenya down. That would be a sign of weakness and a betrayal to their medieval notions about manliness. They would rather die than own up.
So for these bunch of official flops, a cocktail of shameless deception, self-congratulation and arrogance are a suitable substitute for accountability.
I honestly do not see anyone among the Presidency, Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku, Inspector General David Kimaiyo, Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Julius Karangi and even other back room operatives like Mutea Iringo or Francis Kimemia stepping forward and admitting failure at Westgate; make a public apology; outline lessons and new measures to ensure September 21 does not happen again.
Accountability for Westgate will remain buried in the codes of private loyalties and friendships; the dark rooms of unprofessional conduct by those entrusted with the security and defence of Kenya and in backward masculinity that appears to be the credo of government and state officials in charge of national security and defence.
Without full accountability over September 21, there is nothing indicative that more Westgates cannot happen to us again.
By Nduko o’Matigere