NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rampant corruption made it easier for the Islamic militants who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate mall on Saturday to carry out their deadly mission, Kenyan media said on Thursday.
“The immigration department has a lot of ground to cover in clearing its reputation,” The Standard newspaper said in its editorial. “It has to explain, at the very least, how more than a dozen foreign terrorists and their war materiel sneaked into the country without their knowledge.”
It said the police, and in particular the National Intelligence Service, had received “credible intelligence of impending terrorist attacks” but failed to prevent the mall assault.
The Kenyan government has said that Americans and a British woman were among the militants who led the attack in which more than 60 people died and which turned into a four-day siege.
Kenya’s immigration and police departments regularly feature near the top of Transparency International’s surveys of corruption in the country.
In its 2011 Global Corruption Perception Index, Kenya ranked 154th out of 182 countries surveyed.
“Corruption among Kenya’s immigration officers at our border entry points has allowed many illegal immigrants to enter the country,” Apollo Mboya, secretary of the Law Society of Kenya, wrote in the same paper, though it is not known how and where the mall attackers entered the country.
Earlier this month, several suspected drug lords who were deported in June were found to have returned to Kenya using fake papers.
Kenya’s weak criminal justice system and lax border controls have also enabled international drug traffickers to use Kenya as a major transit point.
“The war against terrorism has to be fought in tandem with the one on drug trafficking,” The Standard editorial said. “The officers who turn a blind eye to the one have no compunction about doing the same to the other.”
Human trafficking and ivory poaching are also soaring in Kenya due to corruption and weak governance, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said earlier this month.
The Standard called for foreign investigators to analyse how the Westgate attackers entered the country because the police could not be trusted to investigate themselves objectively.
Writing in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on Monday, author Giles Foden came to a similar conclusion.
"You can gesture at the transnational problem of Islamist terrorism all you like, but it's just hot air unless you invest in proper security on the ground in your own country," he wrote.
“Unless the corruption stops, and real investment is made in the social fabric, Kenya will once again be faced with systemic shocks it is hardly able to deal with.”