Kenya marks first memorial of Westgate massacre - CNBC Africa

Kenya marks first memorial of Westgate massacre

East Africa

by Elayne Wangalwa 0

Kenya First Lady speaks during the opening of Our Nairobi: A Westgate Memorial Exhibition. PHOTO: Twitter

Commemorations began earlier in the week, reliving emotional scars of survivors and families who lost their loved ones during a four day siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi by Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab.

The target mall is a highly popular shopping centre visited by the diplomatic community, middle class Kenyans and foreign visitors.

During an exhibition at Kenya’s National Museum tries to piece together the events of September 21 by showcasing photos and video testimonials of those affected by the attack, families of the departed as well as rescue workers give an open, soulful account of what happened. Kenya’s first lady, Margaret Kenyatta said that the country had to be resilient.

“As a country, we stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the attack both in Kenya and elsewhere in the world. I acknowledge this is a time that brings munch pain and sorrow to many and is still a time of healing having also lost members of our family in the senseless massacre,” Kenyatta said.

Organiser of the exhibition, Arjun Kohli said, “The exhibition aims to get 40 stories altogether and we want the majority of those stories to be ‘mwananchi’ which is the Kenyan word for the common man so the waiter who was inside, the red cross volunteer who risked his life to go inside and some of the heroes.”

A year since the massacre however, Kenya has picked up the pieces, so have businesses that were caught up in the attack.

(READ MORE: Kenyan economy strained by terrorist attacks)

Joyce Gikunda, director of Lintons Beauty World said, “We just opened about a month ago. We are still doing final touches but we decided we are under a lot of pressure from our clients from Westgate and because we didn’t have anywhere else to go we came to village market which is very popular and we are truly impressed because we were embraced by the management so the turn out and the response the last one month has been tremendous.”

Managing Director of Kenya’s largest retail chain, Nakumatt, Atul Shah said, “We have gotten back on our feet. We had a period when after Westgate everything was slow people were not shopping, people were not visiting shopping malls, people were not visiting places of interest we were all keeping away. I think suddenly Kenyans said enough is enough.”

Nakumatt lost about 600 million Kenyan shillings in revenue, while Lintons lost over 20 million Kenyan shillings. With only part of these businesses insured, they were not fully compensated.

Gikunda further said, “We had never thought about terrorism insurance. We had the other normal insurance against fire, theft and other things but not terrorism. Many of us actually never imagined that something like that could happen to us so business went completely under.”

Since the wake of rising insecurity in the country, Kenya’s Insurance Regulatory Authority has seen a surge in people insuring property against terror attacks.

(READ MORE: Trial of Kenya Westgate mall attack suspects begins)

CEO at ICEA Lion, Justus Mutiga said, “In this country there was not terrorism cover until 1998 you know what happened in 1998, this is when the American embassy was bombed in Nairobi and after that attack, insurance companies designed terrorism covers and started selling them to businesses the insurance cover did not pick a lot, not many businesses bought the cover.”

A committee, headed by Wahome Muchiri, appointed last November to oversee the restoration of the Westgate shopping mall still has high hopes on ensuring that one day the once highly popular shopping centre will be restored.

“The owners of the mall have still not set out a timetable for the actual restoration and possible re-launch, I guess there are technical issues that we were unaware of as a committee relative to the structural soundness of the building itself. They have to take professional advice on returning that mall to the market and therefore as tenants we are still sitting and waiting to hear the final technical intentions of the sponsor with regards to the revival or restoration of the mall,” said Muchiri.