NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 24 – The National Assembly on Tuesday suspended normal business to pay tribute and reflect on the horrific terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall which has so far claimed 67 lives and left 175 injured.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi earlier led MPs in holding a minute-long silence in memory of the dozens of Kenyans slaughtered when terrorists struck and sprayed bullets to shoppers at one of Nairobi’s prestigious shopping mall.
In his communication to the House, Muturi described the Saturday afternoon siege, which Somalia based militant group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for, as a “cage of terror.”
“We are a nation in mourning, but we are a nation more united in spirit and indeed,” said Muturi.
MPs from both sides of the House appreciated the work the authorities had done in securing hostages and neutralising the hostages.
The debate was dominated by legislators expressing outrage at the lapse of security agencies, including the National Intelligence Service, with some questioning how large arms which were used to hold the country’s military in a stand-off for four days were allowed to be moved across the city without anyone noticing.
“Some real hard questions will have to be asked to our security operators to all these bodies that use a lot of taxpayers’ money,” said Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso.
Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi – in whose constituency the terror attack happened – said the security agencies should be overhauled, saying that most had failed to prevent terrorist attacks in the country.
“This thing did not just happen it was planned and meticulously executed,” said Wanyonyi.
Minority Leader Francis Nyenze and Kajiado North MP Joseph Nkaiserry cautioned their colleagues against apportioning blame on the security agencies.
“I will not condemn an officer who is doing his job until a probe is concluded,” said Nkaiserry a retired Kenya Army Major General who also served as the Defence Assistant Minister in the previous government.
Nyenze on his part said Saturday’s daring attack and a four-day siege at the Westgate mall was a direct assault on the country’s national security.
“This House must allocate more resources to the military, Directorate of Criminal Investigation and National Intelligence Service so that they can get proper training and proper equipment,” he said.
Majority Leader Adan Duale condemned the attack saying it should be a “wake-up call” to the government to institute reforms in the security apparatus.
“This is the time to evaluate the security of our country. This is the time to assess whether the men and women that we have in charge of our security are working. Our security is paramount. I am sure the President and the government will have something to do about it,” said the Majority Leader whose Garissa Township Constituency has witnessed repeated grenade attacks since Kenya sent its soldiers to neighbouring Somalia in 2011.
Duale lauded the Kenya Red Cross for the response and called for the abolishment of the government’s disaster management department.
“We need to give the Kenya Red Cross money. We have a Special Programmes Department and a disaster management team, but we don’t see what they do,” said Duale.