, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – It’s the kind of stuff of which television shows are made; a four-star hotel in the heart of a battle zone, Heads of State for guests, snipers for security and at the centre of it all is one Justus Kisaulu – the man that runs the show.
Except a writer somewhere didn’t exercise their creative licence in dramatising these events, the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu has actually been bombed twice; first in an assassination attempt on the then newly sworn-in Somali President Hasan Sheikh Mahmud and as recently as January 1 when two car bombs exploded outside the hotel resulting in 10 fatalities.
And through it all, Kenya’s very own Kisaulu has borne the responsibility of putting the pieces back together as General Manager.
“I’m safer there (Mogadishu) than here,” a laughing Kisaulu unexpectedly told Capital FM News on a recent trip to Nairobi.
“If you want to snipe me here it’d be easy but not there, my security team’s even better than the General Service Unit, they’ve had the privilege of training with the AMISOM forces,” he boasted.
Kisaulu is obviously proud of the Jazeera, and understandably so given he’s fostered its development right from inception.
“It wasn’t even complete when I first moved there three years ago. I oversaw the finishing of our 70 plus rooms and now we’re even looking to expand because our services rival those of the best hotels in the world and the business opportunities in Mogadishu are enourmous,” he sold.
That is, of course, if you don’t mind being driven to and from the airport in an armoured vehicle but that hasn’t seemed to stop airlines from flying there if Kisaulu’s account is anything to go by.
“Every time I come to visit my family I have to book my ticket back two to three days in advance even though there are six airlines that ply the route including Turkish Airlines which offers direct flights from Europe to Mogadishu,” he testified.
And it certainly didn’t stop Kisaulu from leaving his wife, child, job as GM of Nomad Palace Hotel Garissa and country for a hotel that hadn’t even opened its doors yet.
“It wasn’t just the benefits. I like a challenge and I’d have taken my family with me if I didn’t have to worry about the quality of education they’d get,” he explained.
Three years, two bombings and one child later, he’s still not about to turn back, “Terrorism is not an exclusively Somali threat. It’s a global one. What we have to fear is fear itself when we’ve done everything we can to protect ourselves.
“And I for one am not about to turn my back on my neighbour.”