BY RAILA ODINGA
Once again, we have become victims of a cowardly attack that resulted in many deaths and many injuries.
My thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost loved ones or who lie in pain with injuries from this attack. We are in this together.
I thank the security officers who put their lives on line for the sake of our country. I also salute the many ordinary Kenyans and visitors who refused to bullied and picked up their arms to save compatriots and fellow human beings at Westgate.
We noticed these rare acts of courage, patriotism and love. We don’t take them for granted.
These attacks were aimed at ordinary, hardworking Kenyans out to enjoy what the nation they work so hard to build has to offer on a weekend.
The terrorists targeted Nairobians of all races, all colours, all religion and all ages. They targeted black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, the young and the old.
Yet the objective was to divide us by religion and race and to dictate to us what we can and what we cannot do.
So the terrorists are telling us that they spared Muslims and slaughtered non-Muslims.
We must reject this cheap lie. We have seen our Muslim compatriots burying their dead from this attack.
The terrorists want to separate us from our friends abroad. So they are repeating how among our attackers were recruits from US, UK, Canada, among other Western nations. Yet we know that these nations also lost citizens in this attack and their security and intelligence agencies are currently helping us get to the bottom of this crime.
The terrorists are telling us they are Al Shabaab with recruits from Somalia who want us to withdraw our troops from that country.
What a lie. We have seen Kenyans of Somali origin also burying their dead from the Westgate attack. We also know Al Shabaab is rejected even within Somalia where people are enjoying peace since the gang was routed out of key towns.
We equally saw Kenyans of Somali ethnic origin volunteer and take the war to the terrorists to rescue fellow human beings at the mall.
Let us call the attackers of Westgate by their name: terrorists. They are people who have lost all sense of humanity and for whom words like brother, sister, dear country and fellow citizen no longer exist.
Nairobi is the biggest and most cosmopolitan city in East and Central Africa. Citizens of nearly every nation on earth are found in Nairobi. Those who attack us do it not because they want to hurt members of any particular faith, race, or nationality. They do it to attack the human race in its rainbow formation at one go. That is what they did at Westgate.
Our response must be to stand together with the injured, the bereaved and the community of nations that believe in freedom, even as we seek answers to the many questions that Kenyans will rightly be asking.
Even as we stand together, we must demand a more serious, more convincing and a better-coordinated response to the security lapses that have become part of life in Kenya.
As we engage terrorists abroad, we must see clear indications that we have taken steps to detect and deter attacks that terrorists plot against us.
I know many such planned attacks have been nipped in the bud but we must up our game and our people must be convinced that we are doing all that we can. Today, a number of citizens think so much remains to be done.
I can’t blame them. For much of this year, attacks have become the order of the day in places like Moyale, Garissa, Lodwar, Samburu, Turkana and Nairobi, among other places.
Security has deteriorated in places like Bungoma, Busia, Teso, Mwingi, Kitui and Kuria.
Many attacks in Northern Kenya seem to be the work of sleeper terror cells out to test our preparedness and resolve.
Even where the attacks may not be by terrorists, their frequent occurrences paint a picture of a lawless nation. That is the platform on which terrorists act best. We must dismantle that platform.
We need to prevent these attacks and to deal with those plotting them in a manner that clearly shows we know what they are trying and what is at stake.
It is my hope that in the coming days, as a reward to our citizens for their patriotism, the government will publish a review of its intelligence and security on this attack. Of course we expect the government to leave out material that would prejudice the work of our agencies.
As a nation, we have taken a devastating blow.
But I also feel very proud to be a Kenyan at this moment because it is clear that our spirit is not broken, our focus not dimmed.
We have refused to allow the terrorists to derail the flow of life in our country and we have refused to turn against each other as they hoped.
Our airports, our roads and our port are operating at full capacity. Soon, Westgate itself will be up and running.
We refuse to be blackmailed and derailed.
Our soldiers must continue the good work in Somalia where they have made life liveable particularly for girls, women, children and the youth.
Thanks to our soldiers, schools, colleges and universities have reopened in Mogadishu and the youth are once again able to pursue education and build a secure future, while new born children are being vaccinated against preventable diseases and girls are able to go to school.
We shall remain the force for good.
As a nation, we are ready as ever to receive friends from abroad with the open arms and genuine smiles that we are known for.
Terrorists shall never change who we are.
(Odinga is a former PM of Kenya)