NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s president announced the appointment of a new defence forces chief on Friday after the retirement of General Julius Karangi, who drew public criticism for the army’s handling of a militant attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013.
Somali Islamist al Shabaab gunmen launched an assault on the Westgate mall in September 2013. The siege last four days and soldiers were accused of looting shops during that period.
Critics said the army should have ended the siege more quickly and blamed poor discipline for the looting. Karangi admitted after the attack that there had been some looting and said at least two soldiers were dismissed.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that Karangi “will commence the handover process starting next week pending retirement as Chief of Defence Forces after more than four decades of distinguished service to our country”.
Kenyatta said he was promoting Lieutenant-General Samson Mwathethe to the rank of general and appointing him Chief of Defence Forces-Designate.
In December, the president announced a new interior minister and new police chief, who were also criticised over the Westgate attack and their failure to prevent subsequent assaults.
There has been a spate of al Shabaab attacks since Westgate, including this month’s assault on a university in northeast Kenya in which gunmen killed 148 people. The series of killings have added pressure on the president to boost security.
Al Shabaab says it has launched attacks on Kenya to punish the country for sending troops to Somalia to battle the Islamist group as part of an African Union peacekeeping force.
Analysts say Kenya faces a difficult job securing the border with Somalia, but say corruption among border officials as well as poor coordination between security forces have added to the country’s security problems.