Commission of inquiry that never was

Saturday September 20 2014

Interior CS Joseph Lenku has refuted claims that the Westgate rescue operation was botched. PHOTO | FILE |


President Uhuru Kenyatta’s promise to set up a commission of inquiry into the Westgate attack was shelved after he was advised it could expose sensitive details and lead to the passing of a no-confidence vote in security chiefs in the middle of anti-terror war, the Sunday Nation has learnt.

At the centre of the public fury were Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces General Julius Karangi, then National Intelligence Service Director-General Michael Gichangi, Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo and Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku.

Mr Lenku in particular came under fire for the lack of clarity, consistency and coherence in the information he released to the public during the siege.

Mr Gichangi was blamed for NIS’s failure to provide operable intelligence before the attack, while Gen Karangi and Mr Kimaiyo have been criticised for failing to properly coordinate the fight and rescue operation at the mall that involved police and KDF.

According to a legal expert who spoke on condition of anonymity, the fact that the outcome of such an inquiry must be tabled in Parliament, according to the Constitution, would remove control from the President’s hands.

Public sessions, including the grilling of security chiefs during the inquiry, were said to have caused consternation among some senior officials. Such reports have previously been shelved without consequence if they were deemed unfavourable. 


Weeks after the attack, Attorney-General Githu Muigai stressed the President’s commitment when he told a global audience that an inquiry would be carried out to ascertain what went wrong at Westgate. But he said it was important to wait for the results of forensic investigations and other reports.

“It will happen because we are committed to that. There was a parliamentary inquiry, we thought it should wind up first, and there were criminal inquiries by the Kenya criminal investigations department and other friendly investigation agencies assisting us. We thought all this should go first and they should form part of the material we use in the commission of inquiry,” Prof Muigai told France 24 station.


On Saturday, President Kenyatta’s spokesman Manoah Esipisu said they were waiting for forensic reports from Israel and the US Federal Bureau of Investigations.

“Interior (ministry) says Israel and US investigators are yet to submit forensic reports. The President has always said that these are important in piecing together what happened on that day. The President’s appetite for the facts is still sharp. He does not want many teams doing the same job,” he said.

It is, however, not clear which report the government is waiting for as findings of a multi-agency security team, which also involved the FBI, came up with a forensic report that was shared with Parliament. But the report of a joint parliamentary committee on National Security and Defence, chaired by Mr Asman Kamama (Tiaty MP) and Mr Ndung’u Gethenji (Tetu MP), was thrown out by lawmakers for being shoddy.   

According to the forensic audit report, which was tucked to the Parliamentary report, four terrorists were involved in the attack.

 “All the four terrorists were killed during confrontation with the security forces. Their body parts, weapons and personal effects were recovered from the scene of attack,” the report reads in part.

It adds: “Body parts, including one in a military boot, were recovered from the scene on October 1, 2013. Two bodies believed to be of military personnel, one M4 rifle and a military knife were also recovered from the scene on October 2, 2013.”

It is also not clear where the remains of the terrorists were taken, with Gen Karangi claiming early this year that they were with the FBI in the US while other sources have claimed samples suspected to belong to the terrorists were in Kenya but no conclusive evidence had been found to link them to the attackers.  

Law Society of Kenya CEO Appolo Mboya on Saturday said  the President should tell Kenyans why he changed his mind on the commission of inquiry.

“He owes the nation an explanation as to why it has not happened or why he changed his mind. As a President you can get information that other people do not have. If it happens, it is paramount that he says because until now we do not know what happened at Westgate and the flaws of the attempted rescue mission,” said Mr Mboya.

Mr Lenku dismissed claims that the operation at Westgate was botched, saying Kenya received a seal of approval from “knowledgeable security chiefs worldwide”.