NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 21- Three years after the Westgate Mall terror attack, the management and Kenyans have moved on from the dark memories of the incident that claimed 67 lives, left hundreds injured and property worth billions destroyed.
Unlike the first two years where a small ceremony was held and candles lit in remembrance of those who were killed, it was business as usual on Wednesday, but under tight security from private guards and police officers.
The presence of this writer and a photographer is what provoked memories of the fateful September 21, 2013, with some saying they did not even remember it’s been three years.
“What are you guys filming?” one of the tenants asked not aware that it was even 3 years after the terror attack. “Oh! Yeah it was a day like today,” the tenant, who did not give her name, said, while attending to her customers at the expansive mall.
But for Salman Nasir, a tenant who was at the Mall during the attack, “we have moved on. The Westgate management has done a great job since we the mall was re-opened.”
Nasir said nothing will stop him from going to his work place due to the enhanced security, “I usually dedicate everyday to God since anything can happen at any place at any time.”
Some customers who frequent the Mall said they are satisfied with security measures adopted to secure the mall.
“The place looks good and I feel safe,” an Australian national, who was visiting the mall for the first time, and who identified himself as Michael said.
“We have moved on,” another shopper Mercy Mweni said, “We will dwell on the events of that day and that is why I am here and I feel safe.”
The Westgate siege staged by Al Shabaab terrorists lasted for four days exposing serious gaps within the security agencies—including the intelligence service, the National Police Service and the military.
The attack began on September 21, 2013, when four gunmen stormed the mall, spraying shoppers and staff with machine gun fire and tossing grenades into crowds before they were eventually killed while others blew themselves up.
The gunmen viciously hunted down shoppers in supermarket aisles and singled out non-Muslims for execution.
They then put up a fight with Kenyan security forces before the siege was finally declared over four days after the first shot was fired.
Somali extremist group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility as a retaliation of Kenya military’s invasion of their land where they have remained since 2011.
Aware of the changing times and the sustained terror threats in the country, the Interior ministry has released a short vide, advising Kenyans on what they should do if they ever find themselves on such a situation.
The message is dubbed as “The Survival plan for you and your loved ones.”
“In case of such a situation, you can either Run, Hide or Fight, a slogan popularly known as RHF. Please note you can either start with any of the action according to which you find best suit for your safety.
RUN: Run towards the safest exit, do not stop to pick your belonging, help others escape if possible, run away from the source of trouble, do not stop to tweet or take a selfie and do not jump from high buildings.
Call 999 or 112.
HIDE: You should hide if there is no way to safely exit. Lock and secure the door with chairs or tables, put your cell phone on silent mode and inform those around you to do the same, hide behind large objects, remain very quiet and calm.
Then sooth the babies to stop them from crying and if you are sure the attackers are not around you can call 999.
Only come out when it is safe to do so.
FIGHT: Improvise weapons from within your surroundings. Anything from within the room can be used as a weapon such a brooms , chairs, fire extinguishers and so on.
Fight to incapacitate the attacker.
Be physically aggressive, commit to your actions, support each other in fighting the attackers.
Remember, your survival entirely depends on your quick reactions. Do not be a victim. Run, Hide and Fight will save your life.”