August 7, 1998 is a day I will never forget

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BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO

Like any other day on Friday August 7, 1998, I adorned my best attire in readiness to fulfill appointments of the day that included one with the then US Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell.

The Trade Ministry was a walking distance from the US Embassy chancery that played host to the key target of a terrorist attack on that fateful morning.

As we were about to conclude the meeting over a cup of tea on the impending visit by the Commerce Secretary, a sudden huge explosion reduced the US Embassy next door and another building nearby to a debris. The ambassador and I survived the attack and sustained injuries for which we were treated at different health facilities.

My face had been cut by flying broken glass. I bled profusely. My aides walked me through the stairs where I was placed in a car and rushed to the Nairobi Hospital for emergency treatment that included 42 facial stitches. I stayed in the hospital for three days before being airlifted to South Africa for specialized treatment on my eyes that had glass fragments.

I cannot forget to mention that I lost a driver in the incident. He was fatally hit in the chest by a flying object as he was coming out of the basement where he had parked the official car.

On that same day, I had another engagement with a Ugandan counterpart that would have come soon after when I was through with Ambassador Bushnell. That was the appointment that never was. The deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade cut short his trip at the Agip House when he heard of the loud explosion. He panicked and headed straight for the airport to pick up a flight back home.

To the murderers, their mission was incomplete with the survival of the Ambassador who was out of the office at the time of the attack. One can be sure that had the suicide bombers known that the ambassador was next door, they could have lobbed a bomb in the building and some of us would not be alive to narrate the experiences of the day. Madam Bushnell owes her life to the visit to the Ministry of Trade.

It was a day like no other and many living victims would hate to be reminded of the date when Nairobi was painted red with blood and dead bodies covered with blocks. I am lucky to have survived the suicide terrorist attack. Thank God I am alive.

A memorial park in honour of the departed and maimed has been erected at the site where the US Embassy once stood and a similar facility but smaller in size has been put up within the ambassador’s residence in Muthaiga that was inaugurated during 236th US independence anniversary on July 4, 2012.

As living victims, we were privileged to officiate at the inauguration ceremony of the second park in the absence of Bushnell who could not make it to Kenya for the occasion.

The author is a former Minister for Trade and a living victim of the US Embassy bomb blast. Email: [email protected]

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