There’s no doubt about the sophistication of the attack on Kenya’s Westgate mall. The gunmen and women – perhaps, we’re still not sure – had done their homework. There are reports that some of the attackers had been surveying the mall for more than three months before the Saturday attack.
Local media have been reporting that initial investigations indicate that surveillance cameras show the attackers only had rifles, submachine guns and small backpacks during the initial attack. This was reiterated by many survivors.
What weapons they had with them was not enough to sustain a battle for four days. This could easily mean that in the days, maybe months preceding the attack, they could have been slowly bringing in their ammunition. There are vehicles in the basement parking that had been there for months – undetected.
Other reports indicate that some of the attackers had rented a shop in the mall.
In response to media questions, Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said that all these are “rumors” they have also heard and are investigating.
And that’s the difficulty in this story. There has been very little information coming out from the government, and even that has often been contradictory. Statements that have been issued have left more questions than answers.
Were women among the attackers? Were there foreigners among them? Are they all really dead? Government confirms that its forces killed five in a fire exchange and that the rest are buried in the rubble after some of walls collapsed. We can only know when the rubble is cleared. Ten suspects are custody, but where were they arrested?
And the big elephant in the room: how many hostages were in the building when the final assault began on Monday? The government says that the hostages were rescued.
How and where are they now?
The interior ministry cabinet secretary in one of his briefs said that the number of the civilian bodies buried underneath the rubble was “insignificant”. Many people still remain unaccounted for.
Then there are questions about the effectiveness of the country’s national intelligence service. How could such a well-planned and co-ordinated massacre have escaped the security intelligence?
Too many questions, but the government has been telling us over and over that this is a matter of national security, and that there is only so much information that can be divulged.
But Kenyans need to know the truth. They need to know whether they are safe. Those who lost loved ones, survivors and relatives of those who are still missing need to know what really happened.
The country needs closure.
The government has promised the truth, but whose truth? My fear is, we’ll never really get all the answers to the many questions being asked, and that’s a tragedy.
I hope the government proves me wrong on this one.