NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 30 – Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has admitted that intelligence warning of an impending attack at the Garissa University College was ignored by security officers in the area.
Nkaissery told the National Assembly Security Committee chaired by Tiaty MP Asman Kamama that the officers had been informed of a plot to stage the deadly attack but disregarded the information.
He also came clean and admitted that there was lack of coordination by security agencies in responding to the attack which claimed 148 lives.
“There was intelligence that this place was going to be attacked so the regional security committee and the county security committee really should have beefed up security in the university but they did not,” said Nkaissery.
He said the lapse by the officers caused him to interdict them pending investigation adding that if they were found guilty, criminal charges would be filed against them.
He specifically singled out former Lamu County Commissioner Njenga Miiri who was transferred to Garissa as the County Commissioner for blame.
“I think we transferred a problem, I think so… I think the County commissioner is the wrong person because he received this information and did not act on it; it happened again like it happened in Lamu and that is why we have interdicted him,” said Nkaissery.
The Interior CS defended the ministry’s response to the attack saying they did all they could to ensure the situation was contained but their options were limited since they were trying to counter the terrorists without causing the loss of more lives.
Narok West MP Patrick Ntutu sought to find out what delayed the Recce squad from responding to the attack noting that as soon as they arrived at the scene, they contained the situation, killing all the four terrorists.
Nkaissery stated they had already deployed the Army and a special unit of the Kenya Defence Forces who were on the ground, however, those units were unable to handle the situation as the gunmen had secured the only two entry points to the hostel.
“We had the special KDF force in Garissa. We thought they could have tackled the terrorists, but it was difficult,” said Nkaissery.
The CS while congratulating the officers for their efforts gave an account of how they obtained entry into the hostels saying they had to crawl behind a tanker to enter the hostels where they accosted the armed men. Unfortunately, one of the Recce officers lost his life in the process.
But the members of the committee were not satisfied just yet, with Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba accusing the CS of being irresponsible in the deployment, as he and the IG flew to Garissa ahead of the Recce squad, an issue that angered Nkaissery.
And his response was swift, “I am disappointed by Namwamba who is using the committee privileges to make outrageous allegations. This is academic thinking, you are talking to populism,” an angry Nkaissery said.
The CS said if they had had access to the hostels earlier, more lives could have been saved.
He said some of the challenges they underwent were that the hostels were congested and there were only two entry points complicating the operation further.
He assured the public that all those who were killed and those that were rescued have been accounted for.
The committee urged the CS to ensure intelligence information was used so as to save lives and restore public confidence in the security docket.
“This war will be won through collection of timely and actionable intelligence. If we don’t use it, we will face danger in this country,” said Kamama.
They later retreated to a closed-door session where the CS was to brief the committee on the short-term, midterm and long term ways of dealing with terror, how they planned to counter radicalisation and that punishment be meted on those who slept on the job.