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Law Expert: Better Protection Needed Following Kenya Church Attacks

A member of the Kenyan security forces speaks on a telephone next to the body of one of those killed, outside the African Inland Church in Garissa, Kenya, July 1, 2012.
The vice president of the East Africa Law Society has called on Kenya’s government to be more proactive in gathering intelligence to protect its citizens following two church attacks Sunday.

Gunmen attacked two churches in Garissa, a northeastern Kenyan city, that left at least 17 people dead and more than 40 wounded. Two police are among those killed.

James Mwamu said the government appears to be ill-prepared to protect Kenyans.

“We are concerned about the security situation in Kenya… [and] we wish to condemn those attacks in the strongest terms possible, and the reason is that we cannot allow terrorists to be running around killing men women and children, innocent civilians, who have nothing to do with the war that is happening in Somalia,” said Mwamu. “I think, now more than ever, the Kenyan government needs to take the threats of al-Shabab more seriously than ever because we do not know where they are going to strike out next.”

He said Kenyans are apprehensive following recent attacks often blamed on the hardline Somali insurgent group, al-Shabab. Mwamu said the country should deal “harshly” with terrorism.

Regional police Chief Philip Ndolo said four gunmen masked in balaclavas attacked the African Inland Church in Garissa. He said they entered the church after throwing two grenades inside. Two grenades also exploded in a nearby Roman Catholic Church.

Mwamu said Kenyans are dissatisfied with what he said is the government’s poor response to terrorism. Last month, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya warned of the threat of an imminent attack in Mombasa, a top tourist destination, after police arrested two Iranians on suspicion of planning bomb attacks.

Mwamu said the government’s reaction towards the warning was lackadaisical.

"They said the American embassy seems to be undermining the work of the government, two days later there was a terrorist attack. It means the Kenyan government is not taking seriously this information of threats,” Mwamu said.

“What they should have done was to cooperate with the US government where they had this kind of information," he added. "Our government should be more proactive in the gathering of intelligence. We think that they should be proactive in dealing with the issues of terrorism.”

Mwamu said citizens are ready to help the government in its effort to combat terrorism. He also said the administration should resign and call for new elections if it’s incapable of protecting the people.

“Any government that fails to protect its people has no responsibility staying in power. If they are not able to protect the people, they should say that they are not able to do it. Let’s call for elections and you put in a new government in place that is prepared to protect the people of Kenya,” he said.

Clottey interview with James Mwamu, VP of the East Africa Law Society
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