DR CHRISTIAN TURNER
It is difficult to put into words the feelings that we all share of disbelief, of anger and of sadness at the cowardly and senseless attack at Westgate Mall. The events of September 21 will remain seared on our memories.
As Prime Minister Cameron said to President Kenyatta when he called him last week, the condolences of the British people are with all of the victims of the atrocity, their families and their friends. Poleni sana, we share your grief. The victims included six British people. The Westgate attack has outraged people in Britain and beyond just as it has disgusted people in Kenya.
Kenya has responded with remarkable resolve. The #WeAreOne campaign has become its focal point. As President Kenyatta said, ‘as one family, the people of Kenya continue to mourn the dead’. The Kenyan people have shown that the best way to defeat fear is with unity not division, with healing not hatred. That we are at our strongest when we build up, not despise and destroy.
With them I applaud the commitment and bravery of the Kenyan security services in bringing the siege to an end. The indomitable Kenyan spirit was well exemplified by Abbas Gullet and the remarkable men and women of the Kenyan Red Cross in providing lifesaving first aid and other support to those affected. When I gave blood the day following the attack I was overwhelmed by the response of Kenyans to the call for help. I did this because we all stand together in the face of terrorism.
Terrorism is an international scourge that crosses national boundaries. Tackling it requires international action. The United Kingdom is determined to work with Kenya to bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice. That includes supporting the investigation process. We are all seeking answers, but we need to be patient as gathering and interpreting the evidence will take time. Those responsible must be identified, and if others are found to have been involved then justice must be served.
The UK too has suffered from terrorist atrocities. In 2005 the so-called 7/7 bombers killed 52 civilians on London’s public transport. As with Kenya today, the country united together in determination not to let fear change our way of life. After 7/7 we faced hard decisions and had to learn difficult lessons. What action could we take to adapt our internal security apparatus to improve interagency cooperation? What could we do to prevent young people falling into radicalisation? Following extensive open public discussion we found a balance between the need to tackle terrorism on the one hand and the need to preserve the rule of law on the other.
One of our responses was to refocus our foreign policy on places where terrorism was seen to thrive. This is one of the primary reasons for the UK’s commitment to Somalia. We will continue to support Kenya’s efforts in Somalia and to work with the Somalia Federal Government as they move away from more than two decades of civil war and start to develop. The ultimate goal is a safe and stable Somalia that is no longer a place where extremism is able to flourish; the work of Kenyan security forces within AMISOM has been instrumental in success so far and this must continue.
As Kenya’s oldest friend, the UK will remain Kenya’s partner. In this spirit of mutual respect the UK has played a role in supporting the Kenyan response to Westgate. The Metropolitan Police have been on the scene throughout supporting the Kenyan investigation. The British Army sent supplies to hospitals, including dry rations to the Aga Khan, and they supplied equipment to support the response. Our consular teams went out to hospitals and the Oshwal Centre to support the victims. I saw for myself at the Aga Khan Hospital the fantastic care victims were receiving.
And some of the previous assistance the UK has provided has also been well used. Search and sniffer dogs previously used by the UK in Afghanistan have been used by Kenyan authorities post-attack. And the ATPU have been leading the investigation from their new UK-funded operations centre.
We will also remain partners in so many other ways. The bond between us is deep and broad, and that will not change. British people will continue to come to visit this wonderful country, and for my part I will continue to encourage them to do so.
In a week of darkness and pain, the spirit of resolve, common humanity, and unity have brought us together. We will not allow terrorist atrocities to change our way of life. I would again use President Kenyatta’s words when he said, ‘With our openness and inclusivity, we shall confront and overcome all the challenges facing us’. This is as true nationally as it is internationally. We are one.
(Turner is the British High Commissioner to Kenya)