, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 – The Westgate Restoration Committee on Thursday announced that public hearings for investors and business owners at the Westgate Mall will commence on Monday Janaury 20, at City Hall, Nairobi.
Committee Member Kaplich Barsito said that the hearings will provide the committee detailed accounts of the losses incurred by the investors and the cost of restoring business premises.
Barsito further added the information would serve as a guide for the committee as it undertakes plans for full restoration of the Mall in February.
“The committee has conducted a site visit ahead of the hearings so that they can have first hand knowledge of the current state of the mall and the minor renovations that have been done.”
“Hearings will begin on the 20th to the 24th of this month and the committee will go on to wrap up its deliberations and present the final report to the Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, commerce and Tourism,” said Barsito.
Addressing the press at the site, Nakumatt Holdings Managing Director Atul Shah who is also a committee member added that it would be too early to give an accurate figure of all the losses incurred at the mall until the final report is concluded.
He assured that all staff members of the supermarket that lost their jobs following the attack and had not been reassigned to new stores would be reinstated as soon as business resumes.
“We have to wait for the committee to conduct their investigations and come up with an actual figure on the amount of money lost in the wreckage. So far business owners are trying to put the pieces back together and as one of them I also appreciate the efforts that have gone into ensuring that this mall is operational again.”
“I urge owners who had staff in the mall to reinstate them into their duty posts as soon as they are back to business as a means of also helping them put their lives back into place,” explained Shah.
Before the September 21 attack last year, the Mall was said to be supporting an economic ecosystem, valued at more than Sh100 billion annually.
Even as the committee prepares for the public hearings, the case against four Westgate mall terror suspects took off on Wednesday morning at the High Court in Milimani, Nairobi, where two of the three witnesses lined up by the prosecution gave an account of events shortly before the attack that left 67 people dead.
Stephen Juma, a guard with a private security firm, recounted to the court how three men alighted from a saloon car at about 12.30 pm and opened fire indiscriminately at shoppers at the parking lot before heading into the mall.
“One of the men was tall and fat, the second and third were of medium build and one of them had a magazine belt across his chest. He was also armed,” he stated.
He told the court that all the attackers had black jackets and started by shooting a shopper who was coming out of the shopping complex.
His sentiments were echoed by the second witness Patrick Otwane who told the court he did not see the attackers because he took off after the first loud blast.
Otwane stated that he was manning the pedestrian entrance to the mall when the incident took place.
He recalled being with his colleague when he saw two men wearing similar brown T-Shirts and brown jackets shooting at customers.
He stated that once this started, his partner fled to the basement of the mall while he took refuge in a nearby trench where he lay until the police came to the scene.
He further indicated that he had never seen any of the accused people and wasn’t called to identify the four suspects who are in court.
The four suspects charged in the attack are Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar, Adan Dheq and Hussein Hassan Mustafah, who are accused of carrying out the attack jointly with others not before the court.