The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Julius Karangi insists that Kenya’s military officers did not loot during the Westgate mall four-day siege.
Gen Karangi told the joint committees on National Security and Defence of the National Assembly that the soldiers only “picked water from the Nakumatt store to quench their thirst.”
The military chief who was accompanied by Defence Secretary Raychelle Omamo said that “the officers took water with authority from their commanders.”
The Chief of Defence Forces was appearing before the committee only days after Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage made public showed KDF officers entering the Nakumatt store and later walking out each carrying paper bags.
More footage showed KDF officers ransacking safes in jewellery stores at the mall but General Karangi said they were undertaking a procedure he termed as “sanitization to ensure their safety.”
The footage, taken on security cameras in the complex, show soldiers taking boxes of mobile phones from a shop where a body lies on the ground.
KDF took four days to make the Westgate centre in Nairobi “safe” after it was attacked by Al Shabaab militants on September 21.
KDF Soldiers were initially praised by the Kenyan public for the operation, but it later turned out to be a fiasco after the looting claims and reports that the soldiers shot other security agents.
The CDF further denied five officers who died in the siege were shot as a result of friendly fire.
Inspector General Police David Kimaiyo, National Intelligence Services Director-General Michael Gichangi and Interior Secretary Joseph ole Lenku also appeared before the MPs.
Meanwhile MPs investigating the Westgate mall have been cautioned against speaking about issues that have been discussed in the joint committee sittings.
An MP who sits in the committee says the order reportedly originated from the Speaker’s office.
“We have been told we should not talk about what happens in the meeting until the report has been tabled on the floor of the House,” said the MP.
The committee has been conducting its meetings away from the glare of the media and only occasionally give briefings on the findings.
The gag order comes after Tuesday morning’s stormy meeting where committee members rebuked their co-chairs after they appeared to clear security forces on allegations of looting.
National Security chairman Asman Kamama and his Defence and Foreign Relations counterpart Ndung’u Gethenji addressed journalists after meeting the country’s security chiefs on Thursday last week, where they thrashed claims that business owners had lost property to looting which they claimed was a ploy to get compensation from insurance firms.
Gethenji had to endure criticism from the members because Kamama who usually chairs the meeting (on account of being a senior Member of Parliament) is in Israel on official parliamentary duty.
“Not all Kenyans are as forthright as you may like to believe and some will use the cover of looting to seek compensation from insurance firms,” Gethenji said adding that the traders were also eyeing the Government’s initiative to help them recover their lost property.
Kamama and Gethenji repeatedly told reporters that they were convinced from evidence provided that KDF soldiers who were in the mall during the operation did not loot.
“We want to confirm to the media and Kenyans that from what we have seen, no officer from KDF looted as alleged and we want to appeal to Kenyans in the social media to desist from besmirching and maligning the name of KDF,” Kamama said.
The MPs were reportedly unhappy that the duo had made a statement that was not agreed during the meeting.
The MPs said Kamama and Gethenji should tell the country the truth.