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Mr President, appoint a credible commission on Westgate attack

OPINION
By Donald B Kipkorir | September 29th 2013

By Donald B Kipkorir

Kenya is still mourning the deaths and injuries inflicted by Al Shabaab. Westgate Mall stands in ruins. We are yet to know the extent of the fatalities, injuries and damage wrought by the terrorists. And we may never know.

But that doesn’t mean we cannot make attempts to know. It is now the time to begin unraveling the truth surrounding the Westgate Mall tragedy. And we begin with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Destiny has a date with him.

Our President has to appoint a Commission of Inquiry on the tragedy. The Commission has to have specific and clear mandate, timelines and deliverables.

This Commission must set the standards that all future Commissions will emulate. Its findings must be the gold standard by which our war on terrorism will be fought. And it must be a truthful and honest Commission.

On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda, attacked America and destroyed its iconic symbols of capitalism, the Twin Towers. President George W. Bush established the 9/11 Commission, headed by Thomas H Kean. The Commission made such far-reaching recommendations that since then, foreign terrorists have not attacked America. Subsequent attacks have been minimal and by delusional and fringe individuals.

In July 2006, Israeli forces and Hezbollah went to war that lasted 34 days. Though Hezbollah suffered thousands of casualties and destruction of its infrastructure, Israel didn’t consider it a victory.

A Commission of Inquiry under Judge Eliyahu Winograd was established. The Commission made scathing criticism of the Israeli Defence Force and its intelligence services. Recommendations were made that will guide Israel’s future war with Hezbollah. In the next Israel-Hezbollah war, Israel intends to wipe out Hezbollah. Hezbollah received the memo. Lessons were learnt.

In our Westgate Mall Commission, I will endeavour to make my suggestions. It has to be headed by a respected jurist. I suggest Aaron Ringera as Chair and be joined by Richard Kwach and Bernard Chunga as Commissioners and five others. The terms of the Commission must be specific. The tragedy has so many questions. The country is demanding answers and way forward.

How many terrorists were involved in the planning and execution of the mall attack? What are their identities? Who gave them visas, financial, housing and Intelligence support? How and who gave them Intel on the mall? What weapons did they have and how and when did they sneak them in? Did National Intelligence Service (NIS) carry out its statutory mandate in detecting and preventing this and other tragedies?

How do we reform NIS to meets its statutory mandate? Is Brig Michael Gichangi the right person going forward? Does the Inspector General of Police have full autonomy to carry out his mandate? Is the Office of the President a stumbling block to an independent and accountable force? How did the police and the Kenya Defence Forces respond? What role did armed civilians play in mitigating bigger disaster?

In their recommendations, we need to know how to synchronise roles of all our Intel agencies. We need to have Special Forces able to disrupt and destroy terrorists. Our Intel and Special Forces must have sufficient financial, technical and human support.

We also need to amend our laws appropriately. The laws must first appreciate that terrorists have opted out of the civilised system and thus civilised laws cannot apply to them. Once we reform our Intel and Special Forces. Once we amend our laws to take terrorists and supporters out of our legal system. It is only then that Al Shabaab and like-minded merchants of terror will start sending us love letters and not bombs and suicide squads. Kazi kwako Rais.

– The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.


 

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