New Internationalist

Nairobi mall attack unites Kenyans

Smoke seen coming out of the Westgate mallKenyans have called on their government to move quickly to resolve the current stalemate with terrorists at Westgate mall (pictured right), where more than 60 people have lost their lives. Over 100 more have been injured in the terror attack by Somali-based jihadist group al-Shabaab, which began on Saturday.

As the rescue operation, led by the Kenyan Defence Forces enters its third day, an explosion and several gunshots were heard at the mall, with the security forces appealing for calm and patience as they work to end the siege. On Monday morning, there were still a number of hostages being held inside the building.

Despite security forces promising that efforts are underway to end the siege, some frustrated residents are calling on the government to seek other means of ending the standoff.

Gibson Njoroge, 26, a mechanic, says the Kenyan state should seek help from other countries. Logistical support is thought to have been offered by Israel and the US.  

‘Time is lapsing and nothing is coming out from our security forces. The hostages are suffering,’ he said.

But others, like Eddy Agwa, a peer educator, says we cannot blame the security forces or government for what has happened. He believes it is a lapse in border security that has allowed terrorists in.

‘Corruption needs to be stopped because it allows foreigners to infiltrate our porous borders and get identity cards,’ he explains.

The attack began on Saturday 21 September, when more than 1,000 shoppers were inside what is arguably the city’s most upmarket mall. Radar reporter Richard Mbugua said the event ‘shook the nation’.

‘Many are paying their condolences to the families that have lost loved ones, and also sympathizing with those injured in hospitals across Nairobi. It is ironic that Saturday was World Peace Day, but it was taken over by a malicious attack in the heart of our capital,’ says Mbugua.

For his part, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost his nephew and his nephew’s fiancée in the attack, acknowledged the professional response of the various security agencies at the scene and the selflessness of countless Kenyans.   

‘I am aware that many have expressed impatience over the pace at which the situation is unfolding. Whilst I empathize with your anxiety at seeing the matter concluded as quickly as possible, I ask for your understanding as well,’ Kenyatta said.

With hundreds of casualties admitted to several hospitals across the city, there has been an urgent need for blood donations. Kenyans have responded positively, with the Kenya Red Cross Society reporting that 2,972 units have been collected countrywide.

‘After the Westgate incident and calls to donate blood to assist the victims, I decided to donate. The hospital needed blood type O negative, and that’s my blood group,’ said Sheila Bizo, who donated at Agha Khan Hospital, Buruburu.

Wanja Maina, a fellow reporter for Radar, said the response at the major KENCOM blood drive was ‘amazing’:

‘When Kenyans are hurt, we hardly go into the artificial canons of ethnicity. We are all united in donating money, blood and medical kits. The turnout is overwhelming; tribe notwithstanding.’

With al-Shabaab claiming responsibility, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) has condemned the attack, calling it a ‘cowardly’ act that ‘goes against Islamic teachings’.

‘We Muslim leaders gathered here today condemn in the strongest terms the attack on peaceloving Kenyans and our international guests who have chosen to live and work in Kenya,’ said SUPKEM Secretary General Adan Wachu.

Echoing SUPKEM’s sentiments and using the hashtag #TogetherAs1, renowned human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi said: ‘Darkest day this, standing with all who have lost loved ones, have injured kin or friends held hostage, condemning the attacks.’

Musa Haron, Wanja Maina and Richard Mbugua were trained as a citizen journalist by Radar, a communication rights organization which trains reporters in excluded and isolated communities. For more information, visit onourradar.org

Photo: copyright Peter Omondi






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