The crossed communications wires, the tentativeness, almost the timorousness, even the downright amateurishness displayed by a number of the Jubilee government's non-political operatives at the top in the face of the Westgate crisis were all in the sharpest contrast to the crisis management of the Daniel arap Moi era.
And that era, beginning late August 1978 and ending on the afternoon of December 30, 2002, had indeed seen it all, beginning with the death of a President in office, a titan, the founding father no less.
Then came an attempted coup; economic downturns; the often violent clamour for the restoration of pluralism; ethnic cleansing clashes; an assassination in the Cabinet; the US embassy bombing; a Cabinet and loyalist exodus; and the first electoral presidential transition in Kenya in 2002. Moi and Kanu finally left office just a jump ahead of the explosion of digital communications in Kenya and around the world.
President Uhuru Kenyatta stood in the greatest contrast to his ministers and security chiefs - eloquent, professional, to the point and unwavering.
Although he passed on some apparently tainted intelligence to the nation and the world, about there having been between 10 and 15 attackers, it was information that he had received, not initiated.
But his ministers and security chiefs faltered at the worst time possible. Defence Secretary Raychelle Omamo, a lawyer and diplomat (she was Kenya's immediate former Ambassador to France) was never once allowed to address the media during the crisis. And yet she would have animated and delivered a prepared statement much more strongly, honestly and effectively than many of those who were given the microphone.
Chief of the General Staff and head of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) General Julius Karangi sometimes actually prompted Interior Secretary Joseph ole Lenku on-camera and on open microphone, for instance in denying that there had been any female attackers at Westgate and substituting the minister's description of the attackers as "criminals" for "terrorists". But eyewitnesses, including women and children, reported seeing a female attacker.
When ole Lenku then claimed that these eyewitness sightings must have been of men in drag, the Kenyan blogosphere erupted in surprise and derision. The Interior Secretary took a serious beating on social media.
Still on the subject of women - who says that only male official voices should be heard in the midst of a disaster? Lining up Secretary Omamo in the midst of a phalanx of suits, ties and uniforms and not allowing her to address representatives of the world media and the nation was a huge lapse. Having her stand at ease and look into the middle distance, sometimes for as long as half-an-hour, was a serious waste of a global multimedia opportunity.
It got worse. Meanwhile, on BBC world Service FM radio, the KDF Spokesman, Colonel Cyrus Oguna, was busy telling a worldwide audience about an al-Shabaab operative code-named "Makaburi" (literally "Graves" or "Headstones") who apparently operates in plain sight, recruiting for the mad militia.
Oguna passed on the depressing message that Kenyan Intelligence, police and other security agencies were unable to lift a finger against Makaburi and his nefarious operation because his utterances keep precisely on the right side of the law where the parameters of the freedoms of expression and speech are concerned. Makaburi's pronouncements included saluting the attack on Westgate as a legitimate response to the presence of KDF troops in Somalia.
KDF Man's Counsel of Despair:
Omamo and Karangi ought to have held their own press briefings crafted by communications professionals and to ensure that whatever else emanated from within the ministry and KDF, for instance Oguna's freelance counsel of despair on a global broadcaster in the midst of a catastrophic attack in Kenya, was both scripted and on-message and approved.
Few factors are as important in government public communications as a state structure that speaks in one voice and is confident about the information and data that it is dispensing. And this is never more so the case than at times of crisis. In times of extreme crisis it is critically important.
State House Communications Secretary and Head of the President's Strategic Communications Unit Manoah Esipisu is a veteran of journalism, including international crisis reporting, and boardroom communications in such rarified environments as the Commonwealth Secretariat, in other words an all-rounder.
Esipisu is also now the Government Spokesman, a docket he took over from veteran PR man Muthui Kariuki on August 8, 2013, when he also announced that the latter would be redeployed within government. Kariuki's redeployment has not happened and his removal begins to look like the most cynical shunting aside.
But one thing is for sure - had Kariuki, or his predecessor and pioneer in the office, Dr Alfred Mutua, been in place and in action during the Westgate siege, the Government's communications response away from State House, and including the security forces, would have been robust, consistent, distinctive and memorable for all the right reasons.
A shouting match on Twitter:
Under either Kariuki or Dr Mutua (now the Governor of Machakos County) the odds are that the Government of Kenya would not have been reduced to the truly bizarre spectacle of a tweeting match with al-Shabaab disputing the number of dead. On the second day of the siege, the mad militia insisted on 137 and the Interior ministry actually responded to them with a figure less than half that.
Within hours of learning of the massive bomb blast at the US Embassy in the Nairobi CBD on August 7, 1998, President Moi had reached out to the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mwai Kibaki, and SDP leader Charity Kaluki Ngilu and a few others.
All of them piled into Moi's Volkswagen van and toured the scene of the devastation where more than 200, including a dozen Americans, had died and about 5,000 to the nearest round figure were injured, many by shattered glass and other debris blocks away from the blast epicenter.
A slick and professional multimedia crisis communications rollout followed and there was no hesitation, overlap or contradiction from the centre of power in that still decidedly analog era.
Moi ran furiously on the spot:
Eight years before that, the Moi Administration was embroiled in the Ouko assassination crisis. Dr Robert Ouko, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was slaughtered the same week that, in South Africa, the great Nelson Mandela was walking to freedom.
The finger of suspicion pointed unwaveringly to, among others, two of the most powerful individuals then in office - Industry Minister Nicholas Biwott and Permanent Secretary for Internal Security and Provincial Administration Hezekiah Oyugi.
Eight months later, in October 1990, Moi appointed a judicial commission of inquiry and invited Scotland Yard to come in and assist in the investigation.
When the Yard team led by Detective Inspector David Troon arrived in Kenya, Moi looked them straight in the eye and told them to follow the trail wherever it might lead, even if it led to him, the President and Commander-in-Chief.
Moi allowed the commission to run for a year and then abruptly terminated it on November 26, 1991. On that same day, Moi ordered the arrest of Biwott and Oyugi, who were held for a fortnight, reportedly at GSU HQ, and then released without charge.
Moi's crisis management and communications were non-hesitant, assertive, full of surprise moves and kept an eye constantly on the reaction of the international community.
They were non-wavering - but this is far from the same thing as saying that they were honest or that their content aimed at finding a genuine solution to anything.
Moi had learned his game at the feet of a master - Jomo Kenyatta. When Economic Affairs Minister Thomas Joseph Mboya was assassinated in July 1969, it fell to the then Vice President Moi, aged 45, to address a number of international press conferences, where he read a series of the most intriguing prepared statements.
Invariably, the then Commissioner of Police, Bernard Hinga, would be at the VP's shoulder, his eyes rapidly scanning the message as the politician delivered it and looking as if he were seeing it for the very first time.
The impression of lack of coordination and articulation in government communications during crisis events and times of stratospheric tensions is to be avoided like the proverbial plague.