NAIROBI, KENYA —
Kenyan police have received 30 armored personnel carriers to be used in areas of the country worst hit by terrorism. Security analysts say that is a good step, but Kenya needs to do more to win the war against al-Shabab.
In an effort to protect and equip police officers, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta authorized 30 armored personnel carriers to be deployed to the northeastern and coastal regions to fight militants crossing into the country.
The president has said he expects police to be able to work without the help of the military and other security sectors.
Analyst Yan St. Pierre, who runs the Berlin-based security firm MOSECON, said Kenya has realized it is fighting a war inside its territory and all security sectors needed to be involved and equipped to counter the threat.
“It is a very good sign, I think, President Kenyatta and Kenyan government finally understanding that fighting a terrorist group like al-Shabab requires all parties be involved and not just any troops or military. It is a good sign the government is willing to invest more resources into other security outlets,” he said.
Security analyst Andrew Franklin questioned the training for officers using such vehicles.
“If they are police in one of these armored personnel carriers and run over landmine or landmine detonated under it or improvised explosives devices are set off, perhaps by people waiting to ambush these particular vehicles, that officers inside will initially survive the explosions, how will they react after the explosion? That is, trying to get out of a damaged vehicle in an ambush. I do not think the police will make it,” he said.
Kenya's Interior Ministry spokesman, Mwenda Njoka, disagreed. He said some officers were trained before the APC's were delivered.
“These are new challenges we have not had before, but the more you get a new challenge the more you deal with it. When a new challenge comes, at first you do not react the way you should, you learn from it and ensure that next time you face similar problems you are ready and prepared,” he said.
Mwenda said paramilitary police units would use the carriers, not regular police. Al-Shabab has targeted security officers and civilians in Kenya.
Kenyan security forces have been criticized for a slow response in rescuing hostages during the Garissa University College attack last year and during the Westgate shopping mall siege in 2013. Some officers said they did not know which agency was in charge during those operations.
St. Pierre said with the increased threat from al-Shabab, Kenya needed to strengthen its command structure.
“How is the chain of command set up? Now that needs to be defined very clearly and once that is defined, then the training needs to take place. It cannot be just on paper. Security forces need to understand that as soon as something happens this is how it works and how they can work together,” he said.
Kenya sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked group that has vowed to attack Kenya as long as its forces are still based in Somalia.