Kenya’s multi-agency security team has been on high alert since three convicted terrorists were re-arrested 72-hours after their daring escape from one of the most secure prison facilities in the country, the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Nairobi.
The three reportedly escaped from the facility after chiselling away and removing one building block from the wall in their cell, and then scaled the perimeter wall without being noticed.
This comes as the country grapples with a new wave of enforced disappearances that has seen over 57 people go missing this year alone, with the anti-terror police unit being fingered.
The terror convicts’ escape follows an incident of the mysterious disappearance of another convicted terrorist Edwin Bwire from a Nairobi court, which also saw his mother and lawyer abducted by unknown gunmen and released several days later.
On Thursday, the three Kamiti escapees, Mohamed Ali Abikar, Joseph Juma Odhiambo and Musharaf Abdalla Akhulunga were apprehended and rearrested in a remote village in Kitui County, about 180 km east of Nairobi.
Security teams said they were on a trajectory headed east, towards the Somalia border, several hundreds of kilometres away.
Their arrest came barely a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta fired the Kenya Prisons Commissioner, Gen Wycliffe Ogallo and appointed Brig (Rtd) John Warioba in his place.
Minutes after the new Commissioner was sworn in, Mr Ogallo was arrested by Anti-Terrorism Police Unit but later released.
Other officers who have been arrested include Officer-in-Charge of Kamiti Maximum Security Prison Charles Mutembei, his deputy, and seven other officers on duty during the prison break.
One escapee, Mohamed Ali Abikar, was sentenced to 41 years for the 2015 deadly attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people, almost all of them students.
He was convicted alongside Hassan Edin Hassan and Tanzania’s Rashid Charles Mberesero, who was sentenced to life, but committed suicide in November last year inside Kamiti.
The two other escapees were Joseph Juma Odhiambo, jailed for trying to join the Somali militant Islamist group Al Shabaab in 2019, and Musharaf Abdalla Akhulunga, arrested for his participation in a foiled 2012 attack on the Kenyan parliament building.
Their escape also came days after President Kenyatta asked for heightened vigilance by security agencies across the country, prompting a recall to duty of all security officers.
Social justice centres
But in an ironic twist, human rights organisations are lamenting the worsening state of security, increased cases of extra judicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances as reported in various parts of the country.
According to lobby groups, 39 cases of extra judicial killings and 47 of enforced disappearance have been recorded since January this year.
Under the Police Reforms Working Group — Kenya, the human rights organisations comprising legal entities, social justice centres and women organisations want a government guarantee for safety and security in the electioneering period.
The Monday escape put Kenya on high alert, especially after the terror attack in neighbouring Uganda which has sent panic and shock in East Africa.
The Islamic State has since claimed responsibility for the two suicide attacks that left four dead and 35 injured in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
Kenya has also heightened security along its 800-km northern border following unrest in neighbouring Ethiopia.