NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 – Westgate survivor Geoffrey Kotia on Thursday recalled how one of the terrorists taunted him, women and children he was with by telling them to call President Uhuru Kenyatta to save them.
“One of the attackers said, you people we have given you chances to become Muslims but you don’t want. Instead you go ahead and kill our people. Now call Uhuru Kenyatta to come and save you,” he told Chief Magistrate Daniel Ochenja.
Kotia who was shot by the attackers said he had been supervising the entertainment area where a children’s cooking competition had been taking place on the second floor parking of the Westgate mall and was walking back out from the bank when he first heard shots fired.
“It was about 12.30 and I had come from Barclays on the ground floor where I’d gone to get change when I heard the gunshots but I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was cops chasing robbers on the road somewhere.”
“Even when I saw one of my colleagues running away and he shouted that something wrong was going on in the parking area I still thought he was joking,” Kotia recounted.
And when it eventually dawned on him the shots weren’t coming from the road but from the entrance to the parking area, he testified, there was nowhere to go but down.
“I heard shots coming from inside the mall and people started running out so we were trapped and I started yelling for people to lie down because you can’t outrun a bullet,” he said.
The bullets only stopped “flying” when the terrorists finally made it up the ramp and by then even he was lying face down on the ground.
“I peeked and saw that there were two of them but I didn’t see much. One said they were Mujaheddin and didn’t kill women and children and then they asked the women and children to stand up.”
“Some did but then the other said but you’ve killed our women and children, so why should we spare yours? And the shooting started again,” he testified.
It was then, he said, that they told them to call on their President to save them.
Satisfied that they were dead, he testified, the terrorists made a call before making their way into the mall to join their partners.
“The call lasted less than a minute and it was in something like Arabic but it sounded like they were giving an update,” he conjectured.
Kotia took a bullet to his side, sustained several flesh wounds to his legs, burns from a grenade and a crack to the hip in the assault which forced him to sit when giving his testimony.
“I’m yet to get my full motor function back and I’m still on medication to this day.” he said.
Aware that those who attacked Westgate on 21 September, 2013 gave the presence of Kenya’s defence forces in Somalia as their motivation, President Kenyatta was categorical that if that was their mission, they had failed.
“If their desire is for Kenya to pull out of Somalia my friends, all they need to do is what they should have done 20 years ago which is put their house in order and Kenya will come back to Kenya,” he stated at a prayer service in honour of the Westgate victims in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Kotia was testifying for the prosecution in the case against Mohamed Abdi, Liban Omar, Adan Mohamed and Hussein Mustafah who are facing terror charges on suspicion of aiding in the September 21, 2013 terror attack in which at least 67 people died when four gunmen stormed the Westgate mall and shot indiscriminately at shoppers and shop attendants.