NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 21- With a stern look, the Israeli security man warned us against taking any picture of security personnel inside the mall or question anything relating to security.
“Just cooperate and you will get a chance to do your interviews,” he instructed. “You will not be briefed on security and you will not interview any of my security personnel.”
That is the new Westgate shopping mall, where nothing is left to chance.
Capital FM crew visited the mall on Monday, during the second anniversary of the Westgate terror attack by the Al-Qaeda linked militia; Al-Shabaab who stormed in and massacred 67 shoppers and staff in four days of bloodshed.
At the parking, plain clothes officers; private and state officers were keenly monitoring any activity ongoing inside.
Armed General Service Unit officers were manning the main gate just before one get to the hands of private guards who ensure everything goes as planned using screening machines.
“The Israeli security apparatus have taken over the mall…they are working together with Kenyan security officers,” a cashier in one of the main stores told Capital FM News.
Though business is yet to pick, traders at the mall are optimistic that Kenyans, “will give the mall a second chance.” Two years after the terror attack, Nancy Kadesie has moved on from the horror of the aggression, but on Monday, she was nervous.
Her store, dealing with shoes, is located a few metres from the entry point, the same place it was during the September 21, 2013 terror attack.
“I lost a colleague and maybe that’s why I feel sad,” a teary Kadesie told Capital News crew visiting the mall. “I however feel safe, things have really changed.”
True to her word, walking around, one will not fail to notice the plain clothed officers strategically positioned at all the entry points of the expansive mall.
It’s evident, that a number of traders are confident of their safety and hopes that business can resume as it were two years ago.
“It used to be a busy mall…I believe things will someday come back to normal. We are yet to clear our first stock but at least it’s moving,” a trader said on anonymity grounds.
Juma deals with African goods within a store on the first floor of the mall but says, “He is still worried but I am motivated by my kids to wake up every day and come here. Terror is everywhere; they (terrorist) can come even at your home and kill you.”
Harrison, a store owner, on his part urged, “Kenyans to give the mall a second chance, things are much better now.” The mall was re-opened on July 18 for business.
The complex had been badly damaged in the assault by the Shabaab attackers and has since undergone a Sh2 billion renovation. After the Westgate attack in 2013, Kenya has experienced a series of other attacks including the Mpeketoni attack that left over a hundred civilians’ dead.
Worst of the attacks was at the Garissa University in which terrorists killed 147 people mostly students.
On Monday, two major events happened in the city to mark the anniversary, the first being a march by a group of businessmen and activists in Eastleigh who held a street procession.
The march started from St Teresa’s area to New Eastleigh primary where speakers led by Kamukunji Member of Parliament Yusuf Hassan called for peace.
“We will not allow the work of terrorists to create hatred among us. We want to send them a message that Muslims are not a part of their evil agendas,” he stated.
At the mall, some staff congregated to honour those who were killed in the attack. Nakumatt staff led the team in marking the day.
“Peace can only be kept by understanding. Happy World International Peace Day,” Nakumatt said on their twitter account.