BY RAILA ODINGA
Once again, we get together to remember not only those who died in the September 21 attack but also to pay tribute to patriots – military and civilians – who have given their all since that day.
I join you in praying for the memory of all those taken from us, all of them innocent souls that ought to have been with us today.
Nobody knows what those unborn babies, small children, the newly weds whose lives were brought to a sudden and brutal end might have been.
But I know they would have added to the beauty and vibrancy of our nation.
Right now, no amount of tears, prayers and words of consolation are enough to compensate anyone for the loss that has occurred.
No amount of words can save our citizens from the fears and uncertainties and questions they are grappling with.
But there are things we can, and we must do to show our citizens that we feel the pain they have gone through, we see the wounds that shall never heal in their hearts and their bodies; and we hear the questions they are silently asking even as they try to put our country back on track.
This attack shows we are in for a long drawn battle. While Al Shabaab is cornered and wounded, it is alive and dying to push its bloody cause. We don’t expect it to give up.
Let this tragedy make us change; and change for the better.
We have to change the way we gather intelligence information and the speed with which we act on the information gathered. Intelligence information not acted on certainly serves no purpose and is a waste of taxpayer’s money instead.
We have to change the way we secure our borders; not just our border with Somalia but with all our neighbours. Business as usual will not do.
This attack must lead to a change in how we issue our country’s identification and travel documents like passports, national identity cards and driving licenses. Digitization is a must.
A higher punishment ought to be meted out on men and women who trade in Kenya’s identification and travel documents.
We must prescribe higher punishment for border and security officers who, for a fee, turn a blind eye and allow our enemies to enter our country to hurt us.
We must intensify and change the rules governing background checks on people seeking to buy property or those who seek to rent business and residential premises.
I feel some form of resignation, where people say terrorism is a global phenomenon and there is nothing we can do
Let us reject the temptation to accept that men and women who have wronged no one being gunned down as they pursue their pleasure or at work is normal when it is done by terrorists because it can be done anywhere.
I also want to persuade our citizens against a creeping belief that the government somehow enjoys their grief. I have been in government and I know that times like these are as trying to government officers as they are to the citizens.
Majority of government officers report to work intending to do good for their country.
Finally, I want to appeal to our international friends to stand with us, especially on intelligence gathering. It would be of benefit to us to know:
(i): Who were these people in touch with before they got here and who have they been in touch with throughout their stay here and throughout the operation?
(ii): Were these attackers affiliated to any groups inside or outside our country? Who are those contacts?
(iii) Were these attackers or their associates planning any more attacks here or elsewhere and when?
This is time to show how united the world is against terrorists.
Thank You. God bless Kenya.
Remarks by Raila Odinga at the interdenominational prayer service for victims of Westgate