RUTO ADMITS KDF LOOTED WESTGATE MALL

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WESTGATEDEPUTY President William Ruto yesterday admitted that it was “unfortunate’ that some Kenya Defence Forces may have looted Westgate Mall during the terror incident a month ago. Ruto told CNN’s Zain Verjee that the looting incident was an unfortunate one after she asked him to explain it. Ruto’s admission came as Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi told Parliament that the plastic bags his soldiers were caught on CCTV footage with were “water which they took with the authority of their commanders.” In the CNN interview yesterday, Verjee asked: “Many Kenyans feel quite upset when they see images of military that were looting inside the mall, how do you explain that?” Verjee asked Ruto during the interview. “I must admit that that is an unfortunate incident, and the president has launched an inquiry to find out exactly what happened. That inquiry is underway and we will take corrective measures to ensure that anybody and every person who participated in the mall incident who may have overstepped their mandate is brought to book,” said Ruto. Ruto also confirmed that so far, only four bodies believed to be those of the terrorists have been pulled out of the Westgate rubble. He said the government was unable to comment on reports of missing persons until the ongoing forensic exercise is completed. His statement on the presidential inquiry underway echoes a similar one made to CNN by Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohamed last week. In the interview, Mohamed said the President had already set up an inquiry into Westgate. Uhuru promised to set up a commission of inquiry on October 1 while speaking during the inter-faith prayer service for Westgate victims at the KICC. So far, no such commission has been formed and the only inquiry going on is the one being conducted by a joint parliamentary committee. Two weeks ago the attorney General Githu Muigai presented to the Cabinet a Bill proposing the setting up of a commission of inquiry. However, he was sent back and asked to rework the terms of reference of such an inquiry. Githu is expected to present the revised Bill tomorrow (Thursday) during the weekly Cabinet meeting. Top security chiefs led by Karangi, National Intelligence Service boss Michael Gichangi, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo, Interior minister Joseph ole Lenku and his defence counterpart Raychell Omamo appeared before the parliamentary committee yesterday. Karangi sought to give an explanation about the CCTV footage showing the armed soldiers walking into the Nakumatt supermarket at the mall and then casually walking out with plastic shopping bags full of unknown goods. The footage, which also shows vandalized ATM machines, has since been screened by local and now international television stations. Karangi said the soldiers were carrying bottles of water in the plastic shopping bags. Asked to explain what the soldiers were doing in the footage showing them ransacking safes and drawers, Karangi explained that they were conducting a “sanitization exercise” to ensure the ‘safety of the place.’ In the CCTV footage, the soldiers were shown conducting their ‘sanitization exercise’ after emerging from the supermarket with the shopping bags and not before. Yesterday, MPs lashed out at the parliamentary committee’s attempt at defending and clearing the KDF against allegations they looted during the siege. Angry MPs said National Security committee chairman Asman Kamama and his Defence and Foreign Relations counterpart Ndung’u Githinji embarrassed Parliament for addressing a press conference at which they denied claims of looting despite CCTV footage aired by local and international television news stations. They accused the two co-chairs of reducing Parliament to ‘mere puppets’ acting on the whims and directions of influential people in the executive. The MPs asked why the two co-chairs had gone ahead to exonerate the KDF yet the joint committee had yet to complete its investigations into the Sepotember 21 attack. “The chairman of the committee was seen on TV saying there was no looting and in the same evening, we were shown TV footage of soldiers with paper bags,” said Minority leader Francis Nyenze. He said MPs should not lose the power and privileges accorded to them under the constitution and the Standing Orders which makes them independent from the influence of the executive. Nyenze said MPs should not be seen to be ‘sycophants acting in the interest and defence of certain people in government.” “We risk having the House seen as a puppet of powerful people,” Nyenze added. Homabay County MP Gladys Nyasuna said the two co-chairs had embarrassed Parliament and had veered away from the committee’s mandate which was to estbalish if the security forces did their best before and during and after the Westgate attack and table a report of its findings for Parliament to debate. Kajiado South’s Katoo ole Metito said the two co-chairs had also breached parliamentary standing orders which bar MPs from discussing in public any matter that is being reviewed or investigated by Parliament. – the-star

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