Monday, September 17, 2012

Ongeri reveals intrigues behind Somalia's assassination plot

STEPHEn MUDIARI | NATION Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri speaks to journalists upon arrival from Mogadishu at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi on September 12, 2012.

STEPHEn MUDIARI | NATION Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri speaks to journalists upon arrival from Mogadishu at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi on September 12, 2012.  

By Henry Nyarora

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri has for the first time revealed the power struggles in Somalia that led to last week's attempted assassination of President-elect Hassan Sheikh Mahmud.

The Minister over the weekend recounted how an attempt by former President Sheikh Sharif to solicit Kenya's support for re-election failed and which may have prompted the assassination attempt.

The Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Before the elections, Mr Sharif had talked with me for one and half hours, requesting that Kenya support him capture the presidency. But I told him that Kenya did not want to support any candidate as it wanted a free and fair elections in order to restore peace among Somali people which they had missed for the last 22 years,” Prof Ongeri said.

The minister said he was surprised when he saw the former President Sharif at Aljazeera Palace Hotel soon after the incident occurred and who appeared unshaken by what had happened.

“Although Al-Shabaab has accepted responsibility of the incident, I don’t know whether it was by coincident that Sharif came to the scene soon event as we held our breath waiting in the room for a bomb to be detonated,” Prof Ongeri said.

The Minister was accompanied with MPs Adan Keynan, Fred Kapondi, Mohamed Affey, Hussein Ali, his personal assistant Jackson Nyagaka and bodyguard a Mr Njagi.

“I believe that God delayed our arrival in Mogadishu for our own safety. There was no meaningful security details in the early hours of the day when we were expected to arrive in the Somali capital since there was peace and calm,” Prof Ongeri recounted.

When he arrived with his delegation at 1pm, three hours late, he narrated, they attempted to use ordinary vehicles due to the assurance of calm. But Kenya's envoy to Somali Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi and General Karanja cautioned them against the move.

“When you have a high value target, you cannot afford to go in an ordinary vehicle,” Prof Ongeri remembers Mr Wamunyi’s warning.

The minister said they were whisked to Aljazeera Palace Hotel in Armoured Personnel to shield them from possible explosives.

At the hotel, he said he had hardly read President Kibaki's goodwill message to President Hassan when he heard gun shots outside the hotel.

“Although I continued reading the goodwill message to President Hassan, who remained composed despite heavy gunshots from outside the hotel, I saw the Kenyan delegation that included Kenyan journalists taking cover under tables,” Prof Ongeri said.

He added: “I prayed and I remained calm for I knew God will not allow us perish as we were out for a good course.”

The worst came when one of attackers was shot and the explosives he carried detonated, spraying his flesh and blood to the windows where their meeting was going on.

The Minister said the four attackers had powerful explosives, one created a big depression at the entrance of the hotel's compound after detonation.

“But we thank God that explosives of one of the attackers who was shot near the entrance of the hotel did not go off as it could have brought down the whole building,” Prof Ongeri added.

He was addressing his Nyaribari Masaba constituents in his Omoyo rural home in Borabu District on Sunday.

The Minister urged Somali citizens to support President – elect Mr Hassan Sheikh Mahmud in efforts to reconstruct the country.

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