Connect with us

General

My 7-hour ordeal in Westgate terror attack- Noordin Haji

Published

on

Loading...

[ad_1]

DPP Noordin Haji has been a senior spy, a negotiator for an independent Jubaland and a target of al Shabaab terrorists. He knows all too well what AK-47 bursts sound like. He knows what it’s like to be under siege.

And on September 21, 2013, while he was shopping at Westgate Mall, al Shabaab terrorists launched an attack, the second most deadly after its bombings in East Africa in 1998. At Westgate, sixty-seven people died, 150 were wounded over four days..

For seven hours Haji and others sheltered in a toilet. He constantly fed information to security sources about the siege and tried to calm the panicked people with him. He’s sorry didn’t have his gun.

Haji brings the same courage to DPP’s office where he is fighting corruption with zeal and effectiveness never before seen in Kenya.

For this reason, the Star Editors have unanimously voted Haji the 2018 person of the year, jointly with DCI chief George Kinoti. another corruption fighter (See yesterday’s Star).

Both men have faced death and been targeted for their integrity.

For the first time, Haji has spoken about the Westgate ordeal in an exclusive interview with the Star, one that sheds light on the man, his resourcefulness and determination. He called it the lowest moment in his life.

Read: My father didn’t influence my nomination, says DPP hopeful Noordin Haji

Related: Westgate cop a hero for saving baby’s life

This is his story:

Haji, then a director at the National Intelligence Service responsible for counter-terrorism, had gone to Westgate to buy gifts for his counterparts in Sudan. He was headed there for a series of meetings.

“After shopping at Nakumatt on ground floor, I went to the washroom when I heard gunshots rending the air. Having been on the front line in Somalia for years, I immediately knew this was a terror attack.

“A few of us ran to the nearby toilet where I then informed my father, my brother Abdul Haji and my colleagues in the security sector that a terror attack was unfolding,” he said.

“I’m stuck at the Westgate. Seems like a terrorist attack. Pray for me,” was the message Haji sent to his father, Garissa senator Yusuf Haji, and his younger brother Abdul.

Abdul Haji was in Yaya Centre when he got the message and immediately ran down to the basement parking, driving at breakneck speed to Westgate.

“I broke all the traffic rules getting there but I made it. All I wanted was to save those trapped inside, including my brother Noordin,” Abdul recalled. He himself rescued two women and three children amidst the gunfire — those photos went viral.

The gifted spy chief Haji — an ethnic Somali and observant Muslim — risked his own life to save others as security chiefs leading the operations relied on him to communicate what was going on inside the mall.

“We were quite a number who ended up in the washroom and tried to find a place where we could shelter. I got rid of my wallet, I put it in the ceiling, hoping that if they came in they would not recognise me.”

He and the others planned how they could help other people if the terrorists stormed in. Haji recounts this in his characteristically modest manner.

For seven hours Haji kept communicating with various security agencies who were battling the attackers, some who were stationed outside Nakumatt.

Loading...

“At some point I thought they were coming for me because a few weeks before the attack KTN’s Jipo Pevu had splashed my pictures all over, describing me as an an undercover intelligence officer. It said I had been receiving death threats, presumably from al Shabaab,” Haji told the Star.

At last Haji escaped from his hiding place when he smelled tear gas [assuming it came from the police, not the attackers] after the security forces had arrived — but not before he saw many bodies, the floor awash in blood.

“The saddest thing is that I didn’t have a gun. I felt a bit helpless but then I was used to gunfire and carrying a gun in my line of duty.

“When we went to Kismayo as we were negotiating a peace deal with different Somali factions there, we always under attack. We were always within firing range and because of that when I was caught at Westgate I was a bit calmer. I tried to calm down the others sheltering in the toilet,” the DPP said.

Read: Westgate mastermind killed in US drone strike in Bardheere

More: Man who saved 200 in Westgate al Shabaab attack kills two gunmen

At the time of the attack al Shabaab was furious that Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Eritrea, under the auspices of of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), were trying to set up a government in Jubaland in then utterly lawless Somalia.

The decision to set up a government in Jubaland followed persistent attacks and abductions by al Shabaab of Kenyans and foreigners working and vacationing inside Kenya, especially in Lamu and Northeastern regions.

Haji was tasked to chair the joint team that would set up a buffer between areas controlled by al Shabaab and Kenya.

“Before that I was also involved in counter-terrorism programmes and as a result, were gathering a lot of intelligence in Somalia. That placed me at the center of fighting terrorists deep in the trenches of Somalia.

Now he’s deep in the trenches again, also filled with danger, in Kenya.

After he was rescued from Westgate, Haji, naturally shaken by the attack, took time before plunging back into work at NIS.

“The attack taught me a number of things. The first lesson was that all security agencies must work together. In the Westgate case, we had the intel but it was not shared and acted on properly,” Haji said.

That changed after Westgate and intelligence-sharing is the reason terror attacks have declined dramatically, he said.

“On a family level, that incident taught me never to take my family for granted. It made me understand the importance of family,” the prosecutor added.

The DPP says his resolve to deal with corruption and other ills stems from his desire for a better future for his children and all the children of Kenya.

“All I always wanted to do since I was a child was to serve my county and to serve it honourably. When my country called me, I did that to the best of my abilities.”

Asked if he fears for his life, Haji said, “For me the dangers did not matter as long as the end was to benefit our country.

“You only die once, and if you have served your country, leaving it a better place than you found it, a country to be proud of, then life was good,” he said.

Read: DPP taps top lawyers for corruption battle

Read: Why we chose Haji and Kinoti as the Star Persons of the Year

[ad_2]

Loading...
Continue Reading

General

Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

Published

on

Loading...

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

Loading...

However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Loading...
Continue Reading

General

Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

Published

on

Loading...

President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

Loading...
Continue Reading

General

Drastic life changes affecting mental health

Published

on

Loading...

Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

Loading...

Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

Loading...
Continue Reading

Trending