On 21st September 2013 during the Westgate terror attack, a Recce squad officer was shot down by an army officer during a rescue operation in the mall. The incident historically doubles as one of the most failed inter- agency operations by security agencies in Kenya. The occurrence led to the highly trained rescue operations Recce Squad angrily downing their tools and leaving the army to their play. CCTV footage and Investigative documentaries released later not only revealed that the army was clueless and ineffective in handling the terrorist attack but also subjected the media and Kenyans to one of the least innovative performance circus.
While the death can easily be written off as friendly fire, questions were raised over the presence and involvement of the army in the terrorists’ operation. The rumoured denigration of the Kenyan police service men also raised questions into the inter-agency cooperation in the country.
Six years later: on 15th January 2019, during a terror attack on the 14 Riverside Drive claimed by the terrorist group Al-shabaab, the questions seem to remain unanswered. The presence of over 200 security service men drawn from the Recce squad, the GSU, the Airforce, the police service and the Kenyan Defence Forces at the scene may cause assurance among citizens when viewed via the media lens but what exactly is their effectiveness level?
What exactly is the task of each security agency during such an operation? On paper, Kenya’s Recce squad is specialised in VIP protections, sky Marshall services, rescue as well as anti-terrorism operations.The Kenya Defence forces and Special forces are not only responsible for handling territorial attacks but also partnering with other agencies to avert danger in emergency situations. While their duties may appear clear cut or vague on paper, the real concern lies in their ability to execute their duties in coordination. Do they carry out joint training? Do they simulate and prepare for such situations? What measures have been taken to improve coordination between the security agencies since the last attack? What is the rate of their effectiveness when working together?
These are questions that will not require a press statement to answer but visible measures and actions.