The Nakuru County Commissioner (CC), Erastus Mbui Mwenda has said that Kenya has continuously upgraded its surveillance infrastructure to detect and prevent large scale attacks by terrorist groups.
Mwenda noted that the government was keeping pace with changing tactics of terrorists whom he said were now opting for softer targets.
Speaking during the development of a Rapid County Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Nakuru County, the administrator said though security agencies had heightened anti-terrorism activities in the country, focus had now shifted in adopted modern technological advancements in combating terror.
“The government has put in place top notch surveillance equipment to prevent acts of terrorism. We are encouraging private institutions, organizations, educational institutions and business premises to embrace new electronic gadgets. The commonly used metal detectors cannot detect bombs, fire arms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from a distance,” said Mwenda.
He said most of security persons detailed to man main entrances to supermarkets, hotels and educational institution lacked proper training on modes of operation of potential terrorists and the nature of weapons that may be deployed in attacks.
“Most of these guards do not know how a bomb or some weapons look like. They are also poorly trained to detect suspicious behaviour connected with criminal elements. The guards are always content with casually frisking visitors with metal detectors unaware that some dangerous weapons may pass unnoticed,” warned the administrator.
Noting that terrorist groupings frequent attacks against civilians were a threat to tourism and national security in the East Africa’s major economy, Mwenda called for a change of attitude among Kenyans in the way they acted in the aftermath of such attacks.
“Kenyans only heighten their alertness after a major terrorist attack then weeks later we become complacent and drop our guard.
Those areas that have never experienced terrorist attacks should not rest easy as terrorists know that citizens in such places are very relaxed. All areas should be treated as potential targets of these criminal elements,” said Mwenda.
He said the County Security Committee has changed tact by focusing more on institutions of learning – universities, schools offering international curriculum and colleges which the CC stated were not only a fertile ground for recruiters from terrorist organizations but they were also soft targets that these criminals could raid.
The administrator assured that the County Security Committee had remained on high alert after one terrorism suspect surrendered to police in the region, while another one linked to the Dusit attack that claimed scores of lives had links within the devolved unit.
“This is an indication that we could be hosting active terrorists’ cells in the County. Nyumba Kumi initiative if put to
good use will expose criminal elements in our midst. It is time that employers seriously conducted background checks of their workers. We have been holding consultative sessions in churches, mosques and temples with the youth as a way of preventing their involvement in terrorist activities. We are encouraging landlords to involve the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and other Security arms whenever dealing with new tenants,” he said.
Njenga Miiri from the National County Terrorism Centre said the roll out of the Rapid County Action Plan for
Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism would be complete in 35 counties within the next two months.
Miiri said the Rapid Action Plan was tailored to ensure quick, well-coordinated and effective responses at county levels in event of attacks. The action plan that would be put in place in all 47 counties further envisions pre-empting terrorist attacks, conducting investigations and arraigning before courts suspected terrorist acts planners.
“Every county will have its own anti-terrorism action plan. This will reduce bureaucracies and guarantee faster and
effective responses during emergencies. For now we will be monitoring the Nakuru pilot project,” he said.
Mwenda said that the Nakuru County Security Committee was conscious that Naivasha Sub-County hosted major tourist attractions such as Hells Gate, Longonot Hill and strategic installations such as geothermal fields which could attract terrorist threats.
“Within Nakuru Town, we have very many international organizations and educational institutions that attract such
criminals. We have the world famous Lake Nakuru National park which hosts thousands of local and international tourists.
They are all well secured,” stated the administrator.
The CC further advised Kenyans to closely monitor activities of foreigners and strangers living amongst them and report any suspicious occurrences to law enforcement agencies.
By Anne Mwale