Kenya's former prime minister criticizes the security forces' response to the Westgate mall shootings last month

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I am Marco Werman, this is The World. Raila Odinga is in town here in Boston. He was the Prime Minister of Kenya for five years until this past April, when he lost a controversial presidential election. That vote had Kenyans on edge but it was nothing compared to the trauma Kenyans went through last month. I'm talking about the siege at Nairobi's Westgate Mall where 67 people were killed after the upscale shopping center was attacked by extremist militants. Earlier today, I asked former Prime Minister Odinga how Kenyans are making sense of the attack a month later.

Raila Odinga: Kenyans, first of all, were shocked by what happened. The sheer audacity of people taking over the mall and doing what they did, killing with impunity. But Kenyans are now even more shocked at the behavior of their security forces as shown in the video on the television, soldiers looting property of victims of this violence. We have said that a proper investigation will be carried out.

Werman: How was that behavior even possible among Kenya's military?

Odinga: This is what surprised everybody because the image that has been created over the years is that our military is highly disciplined and highly professional. So, this has come as a great surprise to everybody and it is really a wake-up call.

Werman: Where is most of Kenya's anger directed right now?

Odinga: I think it is at the military other than the police because they say that the police were acting more professionally in dealing with these terrorists, that they had more or less brought the situation under control when the army intervened.

Werman: So, al-Shabab, as you know, says the siege was retaliation for Kenya's military involvement in Somalia. Shouldn't Kenya leave that sort of military incursion to other countries instead of getting involved in the war of a neighbor?

Odinga: As the Prime Minister, I was responsible for the duty, for taking the decision to send our troops to Somalia and I have no regrets. I still believe that it was a correct decision. Initially, Kenya had desisted from sending our troops because we have a border with Somalia but there continued to be attacks on our territory and they even attacked our tourist resorts.

Werman: You have been here in the States for about ten days. Have you been finding yourself in sort of a defensive position trying to convince Americans that Kenya is okay, that it's safe?

Odinga: I know that a number of Americans actually realize that any day you are safer in Nairobi than you are in Chicago, for example. These kinds of attacks are isolated. They can happen in any part of the world as they did happen here in Boston during the marathon. So, I would really want to appeal to the U.S. government not to scare away Americans from coming to Kenya.

Werman: We've spoken with Kenyans since the siege on the Westgate Mall. They said the country was actually pulling together around that tragedy. You know better than anyone what a deeply ethnically divided place Kenya can be. Is it now back to politics as usual though?

Odinga: The Westgate attack was basically on the nation of Kenya and it brought the Kenyan people together, to unite because there was a common enemy who had invaded from outside the country. That has not yet resolved the internal contradictions and differences between various ethnic communities. There is still need now for a dialogue to deal with this issue.

Werman: Raila Odinga the former Prime Minister of Kenya speaking with us from Boston University.

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