Kenya’s Westgate Mall reopens nearly two years after terror attack amid mixed reactions


The bullet holes have been mended and the shattered glass fixed, but several hearts remain wounded and a lot of questions unanswered two years after terror struck at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The mall reopens tomorrow but many worry that it is premature while others wonder whether they can get past the horrors of the past and walk through its doors.

Despite the new high security measures at the mall, many Kenyans are not sure they can go back there.

“By rebuilding the mall, we are covering over everything that we don’t know,” said Patrick Gathara, a satirical cartoonist for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. He called the act a symbol of Kenya’s continued and deliberate ignorance as a nation.

Kenya’s fast-growing middle class heralded the emergence of upscale malls which several international brands occupy to grab the opportunity presented by the economic growth in East Africa’s largest economy. But the country was struck by one of the worst attacks in its history on September 21 2013 as four men laid siege on the Westgate Mall, killing left 67 people dead and leaving hundreds injured.

Apart from the attack which many Kenyans worry the government has not offered enough information about, some shop owners complain that the looting which occurred alongside was also not investigated. However, some say it was high time the country moved forward from the grisly event. “It’s like if a member of our family dies. It doesn’t mean that we stop. We move on,” said Saira Karim, manager of Diamond Watch store, which was located on the mall’s ground-floor.

Terrorist group al-Shabab vowed to attack Kenya in retaliation for sending troops to Somalia in 2011. Since then it has mounted several attacks on Kenyan soil, the most drastic of which occurred in April of this year when its militants killed more than 140 people, mainly students, at a university in Garissa. The terror activities have drastically deflated the country’s once bubbling tourism industry. Several countries have now advised their nationals against travel to some parts of Kenya, especially its coast where tourists frequented in the past. The result is the closure of hotels and loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

Ahead of the opening of the renovated mall, I.R.G., a private Israeli company took over security of the mall. The mall reportedly has new safety features such as explosive detectors, luggage X-rays, scanners to check underneath cars, bollards to prevent car bombs, and bullet-proof guard towers. “This will be the safest mall in the world,” an I.R.G. employee identified simply as Cohen, told Reuters.

Kenyan authorities also say despite security fears, the country remains very safe. “Kenya is safer than ever. If it wasn’t, Obama wouldn’t be coming,” said Evans Kidero, Governor of Nairobi.

The post Kenya’s Westgate Mall reopens nearly two years after terror attack amid mixed reactions appeared first on Ventures Africa.