How Kenyan authorities ignored varsity’s calls for security prior to Al Shabaab attack
Garissa University College’s principal sent senior Kenyan officials at least five requests for security upgrades prior to the April 2 terrorist attack on the school, a United Nations report released on Friday says.
Dr Ahmed Osman Warfa’s pleas for stepped-up security did not result in action on the part of Kenyan authorities, the UN notes.
Al Shabaab gunmen killed 147 people at Garissa University College in the worst terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi that took 212 lives.
The UN report also cites a text message received by a senior Kenya police officer in Wajir less than 12 hours prior to the attack warning that Al Shabaab operatives 30 kilometres from the town were poised to strike either Garissa University or Garissa Teachers Training College.
“This message was not transmitted to Warfa until over a month after the fact,” states the report to the Security Council by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.
“Since Kenyan police evidently possessed the intelligence, it is unclear why it was neither acted upon – for example, by heightening the police presence in or near the university – nor transmitted to the administrators of the targeted institutions,” the report adds.
“A regional security source summarised the problem when he told the Monitoring Group that in the Kenyan security forces, there is a ‘disconnect between the collection of intelligence and the use of intelligence.'”
This disconnect was also a factor in the failure to prevent the Westgate shopping mall attack in September 2013, the monitors observe.
Kenya police did send Dr Warfa an SMS alert on the evening of March 31 warning of a possible attack against educational institutions in the area. But the message advised recipients only to “be alert,” Dr Warfa told the UN team, and was similar to other texts he regularly received.
The generic nature of the SMS received two days prior to the attack led him to believe the threat was not credible, or at least not out of the ordinary, the UN report says.
The first of the letters from Dr Warfa obtained by the UN experts was sent to the Deputy County Commissioner for Garissa on December 4, 2015 – four months prior to the attack.
“Following many incidences of terrorist attacks in many parts of northern Kenya which has posed a great security threat to Garissa town and its environs, I write to request for additional six police officers to help beef up security at the campus,” Dr Warfa wrote. “In the view of the above, some students are worrying and panicking about their security.”
Two weeks later, the principal sent a letter to the local division police commander requesting establishment of a police post at the university as “a matter of urgency.”
On January 9 of this year, Dr Warfa told the Garissa County Commissioner that local insecurity was causing students to “fear for their safety as they are returning from holidays.”
The UN monitors point out that the county commissioner is a presidential appointee responsible for coordinating security throughout the county.
In the final letter from Dr Warfa, dated March 16, he repeats to the county commissioner his unheeded request for a police post on the campus. “This will help enhance and beef up our security on campus,” he wrote. “There are four police officers currently deployed to the University College, as well as police patrols around the college at night.”
“I would appreciate if you take this as a matter of urgency and consider our request.”