Did Kenyan army use shock doctrine in Nairobi mall attack?

Once again, the meaning of “in every crisis there’s an opportunity” may have been twisted.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It’s bad enough that the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, site of the vicious Al Shabab attack last month, has reduced to ruins, but it’s been looted to within a month of its life, too. The New York Times reports:

Witnesses said that the most they saw militants loot was a couple of cans of soda, and shopkeepers cited no instances of panicked shoppers helping themselves to merchandise as they ran for their lives, leading to the widespread conclusion that the security forces must have been involved.

… Laptops, smartphones, Swiss watches, cameras, underwear, perfume and stereo speakers were all carried out of the mall, which was supposed to be tightly guarded by the military, [shop] owners said.

… More and more Kenyans believe that those soldiers methodically cleaned out the mall, and that the barrages of gunfire ringing out for days were being directed not at the last of the militants but at safes and padlocks to blast them open. Some business leaders even question whether the Kenyan Army deliberately prolonged the crisis by saying that shooters were still in the building when they were actually dead, to give themselves extra time to steal.

In her groundbreaking book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador, 2008), Naomi Klein demonstrated how free-market capitalists make a habit of rushing into the void created by shocks to a country – from violence to earthquakes – and filling it with their extreme financial policies that only bleed a country further. It sounds as if, on a smaller scale, the Kenyan Army may have implemented its own instinctive version of the shock doctrine.

Or, to put it another way, yet again the meaning of that venerable quote – “In every crisis, an opportunity” – is being perverted.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

1 reply »

  1. Chai…tea money is not only acceptable in Africa it is expected. Bribery and theft are pandemic, election irregularities and ghost workers de rigueur. Nothing happens with the police or in any sort of queue without some grease.

    Harambee is the motto of Kenya and in Swahili it means “all pull together”. I can easily see the young KDF troops smiling at each other thinking “Oh what a lucky day!” as they pilfered anything of value down to the wallets, purses, and gold fillings of the dead.

    We may think we know corruption but compared to Africans we are rank amateurs.