Chris Craighead wasn’t known to many Kenyans until his image, wearing a balaclava and rifle in hand, bravely rushing into the Dusit D2 hotel complex during an Al-Shabaab terror attack in 2019 was splashed across newspaper front pages around the world.
Craighead, a United Kingdom Special Forces (SAS) officer, was praised for taking matters into his own hands and saving lives. He was among armed individuals, most of them licensed Kenyan fire-arm holders, who joined security forces at the scene and aided in eliminating the terrorists and getting innocent hotel guests and staff to safety.
Leading publisher Simon and Schuster is slated to release Craighead’s book recounting the attack in July 2021, titled One Man In. The book is described as “the explosive first-hand account of the lone special-ops soldier who fought off a major terrorist attack in Kenya”.
The book’s about section was widely shared in Kenya and has sparked stinging criticism against both the author and the publisher. In particular, Kenyans complained over erroneous references and the seeming erasure of the role of Kenyan security forces and local heroes such as Inayat Kassam; the licensed fire-arm holder who saved lives at Dusit, and the Westgate and 14 Riverside attacks before that.
Craighead’s book falsely claimed that the attackers were ‘a unit of ethnic Somali terrorists’ and described Westgate, a mall, as a neighbourhood in Nairobi.
It further alleged that Craighead began taking on the terrorists on his own before becoming the leader of “a small, rag-tag group of soldiers and civilians” which defeated the terrorists.
Many who were rubbed the wrong way by the book singled out its apparent white-saviour angling, claiming it was wrong to ignore the roles of Kenyans who led the operation.
Off duty police officers, private security teams and unarmed individuals were the first responders at the scene of the attack. The General Service Unit’s (GSU) Recce Squad also promptly arrived to combat the militants.
“A book’s been published about him (Craighead) being the white hero we all needed who singlehandedly saved the day,” Nation columnist Mariga Thoithi sarcastically shared on social media.
“It cheapens the work of our security forces & teaches us not to accept help from just anyone. No former Kenyan soldier will walk into a security operation in UK and ask “who’s in charge here?” wrote one Yayoh.
“A classical stereotype of the white knight in a shining armour. And yet there was Inayat Kassam, but he doesn’t fit the bill,” observed Collins Orach.
“This is what happens when we don’t write our narratives. A publisher saw an opportunity and has flown with the story,” shared Anthony Magayu.
The Dusit D2 attack took place from January 15 to 16 in Westlands, Nairobi and left 21 people dead.