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Kenya fires officials, recruits more police

Mark Caldwell (AFP, AP, dpa)April 22, 2015

Kenya is trying to rebuild public confidence in its security forces after their belated response to the Garrisa massacre. Senior officials have been suspended and thousands of new police recruits are being vetted.

Sudents demonstrating in Nairobi
Students took to the streets of Nairobi after the Garissa massacre to complain about lax national securityImage: Reuters/N. Khamis

The Kenyan government has announced that two civil servants and seven senior police officers have beensuspended and could face charges of criminal negligence in connection with the massacre at Garissa University College earlier this month.

Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said the officials appeared to have failed to have taken the necessary action ahead of the attack, despite intelligence warnings.

"Each will be held accountable for any acts of omission that endanger the lives and property of Kenyans," he said.

Kenya media claimed after the lethal attack that warnings were ignored and the university left virtually unguarded.

148 people were killed when al-Shabab militants targeted non-Muslim students on the campus on April 2.

Police responding to Garissa attack
Local media criticized Kenyan's security forces for their slow reponse to the Garissa attackImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo

A seven hour delay between the time the authorities learned of the assault and the arrival of police commandos on the scene infuriated students who took to the streets of the capital Nairobi in protest a few days after the massacre.

Controversy surrounds the use of a special police plane to transport the family of a senior police official back from their holiday on the coast on the day of the attack.

Nkaissery insisted that the plane was in the coastal region anyway "on an official training mission and on its way back gave a lift to the family of the police air wing commander." He said this was authorized and did not affect the response to the massacre.

More police officers

Facing criticism over security in the immediate aftermath of the attack, President Kenyatta pledged to recruit more than 10,000 new police officers.

This followed an earlier drive to recruit 10,000 new police officers in July 2014 which was halted after a court ruling said that it contravened the constitution.

That ruling came in reponse to a petition lodged by Kenya's Independent Policing Oversight Authority which said the recruitment drive was tainted by corruption and should therefore be declared null and void.

Students at Garissa Universtiy College
The Garissa attack has made some Kenyan students feel vulnerableImage: Citizen TV via Reuters TV

After the Garissa attack, Kenyatta overturned the 2014 court ruling. This prompted complaints from human rights organizations and others, whereupon the government launched a fresh recruitment drive.

Preliminary vetting of new police recruits has already begun. 500 applicants turned up at Nyayo National Stadium, south of Nairobi, on Tuesday (21.04.2015) where their educational qualfications were scrutinized.

That was just one hurdle the applicants had to take. A second was a physical fitness test which involved running 1,500 meters. Not all of the applicants passed. Marcy Juma complained of health problems after the physical exertion. "No, I'm not feeling good," she told DW's Nairobi correspondent James Shimanyula . Others like Cynthia Chemurusoi appeared to complete the course with ease. "I'm OK, I have done my best," she said.