Security agencies deserve plaudits for swift response

Swift action from the security agencies helped subdue four terrorists that struck one of Nairobi’s business hubs on Tuesday.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the “mission accomplished” address to the nation nearly 18 hours later, a nation that had hoped for the best while preparing for the worst heaved a huge sigh of relief.

No one for sure will know what damage the heavily armed men could have done had the police and the paramedics delayed their response even by a minute. Some would argue that an 18-hour siege from four attackers is too long. But given the stream of awe-stricken survivors who were rushing out of the building, it could have been worse.

We pay tribute to the gallant men and women who risked their lives to save lives of innocent civilians. We salute men and women in uniform who strive every day to keep our country safe.

Our prayers are with families and friends of the Kenyans who were killed in the dastardly attack. The chilling events at 14 Riverside Drive complex were eerily similar to episodes following the four-day siege at the Westgate Mall in September 2013.

Then, gun-wielding terrorists stormed into the mall, catching shoppers and everyone else going about their business unawares. On Tuesday, it was clear that there was a central command under GSU commandant Douglas Kanja, unlike during the Westgate attack. That must have made work easy and made rescuing those trapped in the building successful and faster.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that the operation was completed in the shortest time because of the central command. There are those who will argue that capturing the assailants alive would have helped crack the motive behind the attacks by getting as much vital information from them as possible. Though valid, this concern is insignificant when weighed against the need to have the operation over in the shortest time possible and with minimal casualties.

Commendably, there was a better management of information. There were fewer implausible narratives from senior security officials than happened in 2013. Indeed, they say lies travel faster than the truth. By coming out openly and promptly, the security agencies demonstrated that there was nothing to hide. That in a way ensured that only facts came out and tamed the usually riotous social media from spreading misinformation and thereby causing unnecessary alarm and panic to affected families. It was also heart-warming for President Kenyatta to come out and reassure a weary nation that all was well. It is the least he could do because the intent of the murderous gang is to break our collective spirit. However, the hard questions remain: How did the assailants manage to move their weaponry through the numerous roadblocks to their hideout and to the scene of crime undetected?

Moreover, the uncertainty over the number of people who lost their lives, and reports of more missing will no doubt test Kenyans’ confidence in the information relayed by the Interior ministry.

Time and again, we have demonstrated the will to move on. Now that the nightmare is over, we must not lower our guard and we must remain vigilant and constantly aware of our surroundings. The attack also brought to the fore what to do in times of crisis. For instance, how to deal with pain, anger and anxiety. The importance of public support when tragedy strikes was also at play. Hundreds lined up at hospitals in the city and other towns to donate blood while others rallied to pray and offer moral support to families of the victims.

No doubt, the worst of times have brought out the best in ordinary Kenyans. Not just on Tuesday. A gush of patriotic fervour spread across the country with many following the happenings till the wee hours.

Kenyans rose up against temporary barriers that politicians -- through their utterances and vitriol -- have erected over the last few weeks as the 2022 succession politics took centre stage. If only that can hold far much longer. The attack must strengthen our resolve to remain united as one Kenyan family, and be our brothers’ keeper.

There will always be questions about media conduct in such occurrences. No doubt, it is an old debate -- damned if you publish, damned if you don’t. 

Needless to say, but the actions of this newspaper are persuaded by public interest. That is the cornerstone of any responsible journalism.