BY STAR REPORTER
The discovery of a grenade in the basement of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s office on Tuesday morning has revealed major security lapses that are causing concerns to government security agencies. Raila has demanded a detailed report over the incident in which he was evacuated from the building, nearly four hours after the grenade was discovered by a plumber deployed to fix a leaking pipe.
Yesterday Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and other senior officers went to Raila’s office and reassured him there was no cause for alarm as they had acted on the security gaps in an appropriate manner. The plumber discovered the grenade at 8 am and immediately alerted the Administration Policemen on guard duty at the building.
The officers informed their immediate boss who called the AP Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua. Shortly before 9 am, Raila and his bodyguards arrived in the office. “The officer in charge of the building did not inform the PM’s security team of the presence of the grenade,” said a senior policeman at Vigilance House who is privy to what happened and who is concerned about the gaps in the PM’s security exposed by the incident.
Impeccable sources said Kinuthia dispatched one of his officers to the building to confirm whether it was actually a grenade. The man arrived just before 10 am, went to the basement, confirmed that it was a grenade and called the Police headquarters asking for bomb experts to be deployed to the PM’s office.
Police Deputy Commissioner Francis Okonya who heard the request coming through the police radio quickly walked the hundred metres or so from his office at Vigilance House to the PM’s office where he barged in and requested the PM, who was meeting with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, to leave. The evacuation of the other staff was carried out after Raila and the CJ had left the building. The grenade was removed by the bomb squad who searched every inch of the building.
Yesterday, a security expert familiar with the protocol to be followed in case a VIP is under threat expressed concern that the Administration Police did not bother to alert Raila’s security that they had found a grenade. “Why would the APs fail to inform Raila’s security and yet they kept on briefing their superiors. This raises questions about the chain of command and the preparedness of those responsible for providing security of our VIPs,” said the expert.
The PM’s office is located in OPM’s House (formerly known as BP Shell House) on Harambee Avenue across the street from Harambee House, where President Kibaki has an office. Yesterday Iteere downplayed the threat posed by the grenade which he said was a “dud” or “dummy” used for training purposes and can neither cause injuries or death when it explodes.
A “dud” is the word commonly used to explain an ammunition or explosive that fails to fire or detonate on time or on command. “Duds are still considered dangerous and have to be deactivated and disposed of carefully,” said a weapons expert with the police who did not want to be identified commenting on the matter.
Iteere yesterday led journalists on a tour of the basement where the grenade was found. He said, “We want to know who placed it there and with what motive. All officers who have been deployed here for the last month will be investigated. It’s some kind of mischief. Why place a dummy? This is what we want to establish”.
The scene is littered with broken plastic and steel pipes, planks of timber and pieces of wood which are being used in the ongoing renovation work within the building. “This area is very dusty as you can see. But the shell which was found was quite clean and clear of dust. This indicates that it was placed here a few hours before it was found. At most it could have been there for not more than a week,” Iteere said.
He displayed the shell found at the scene which did not have its pin or lever and for comparison purposes also displayed a live grenade with its pin and lever intact. “These type of grenades are used for training purposes only because they are not lethal. It will not disintegrate after exploding. It can only produce a loud bang and a flash of light. They are to be found at the GSU Training School and other police training colleges,” Iteere said.