Nairobi Post Attack
Just 15 days after the attack on the school Nairobi was on an even higher alert. We encountered a random check by the police, as well as many road diversions. The diversions were created to make direct access to sensitive buildings and locations more difficult.
Mind you, the Kenyans make driving a serious sport. Either you go with the flow and bluff a bit, honk your horn or you will never get out of your parking space. This is yet another reason to have drivers with real local knowledge – not someone from London, or even Mombasa, someone who lives and works in the city in which you are trying to navigate. This is essential.
Our charges had a series of meetings in Nairobi over 5 days and then a safari for 2 days. Our driver was very anxious the first day as he was not told until the night before which business offices we were going to visit. He fussed a good deal and demanded the list of the business offices we would be visiting for the coming days.
Typically we reserve this information until the night before for security reasons. We do not wish others to know our plans either for security reasons or even issues to deal with commercial competitive intelligence. He slowed down and then began to make his point a bit more clearly to us. He explained to us that unless someone telephoned ahead not just to the office but to the security people at the gate, it was unlikely we would be able to get the vehicles through the security gates. We would have to drop off our charges and walk from outside the perimeter to the office buildings. As he related this to us, the security training was at a low level but the guards were very proud of their jobs and they did not bend, not an inch. “They are worse than an angry spouse – you are wrong, period.” If the guards violated the list of acceptable visitors, or allowed a car not previously expected to enter the grounds, they could be subject to dismissal. Even if the building owner, called and begged the security guard to let you in, the security is apart from management and if management did not communicate to the security who and what and when people were coming – nobody could gain access. It is up to the manager of the facilities, not the business management to deal with security operations.
He was correct the first two meetings (out of the three we had planned) we had to exit the vehicles and walk. We were also – all of us, subject to security screening upon entering the building and other than electronic gear, it had to be left behind. The third meeting in the afternoon, the vehicles were allowed on the facilities ground, but nowhere near any structures. We walked again and – had to go through pre-building admission security, again.
We were also stopped at different check points along the way, the check point below was in front of an embassy. The guards were apart of the Kenyan Military and they were backed up by some fellows with ear pieces and Uzis. They were polite and professional but very serious. This was to perform a quick search for any car bombs – everyone got out and they physically inspected the car and had a dog take a sniff around each of the vehicles. In 10 minutes we were on our way.
The next two days of meetings were fine. We were allowed on the grounds, but still had to go through pre-building entry security. By this time we were used to this and there was nothing we could do about it. The security people may have a low level of training but they make up for this in absolutely being proud of their job.
Kenya, Nairobi in particular, has been the target of too many real incidents of terrorism, embassy bombings, West Gate Mall, several incidents of terrorism along the coast, and now the horrific massacre at the Garissa school.
On Safari, deep in the Masai Mara, our biggest concern were hyenas at the campsite. The first night we heard the hyenas, the second night they crept into camp and our guards took care of them. Yet again, the best security guards are locals who know the territory.