“A new dawn, a new shopping experience.” This is the copy that is plastered across billboards in Nairobi inviting Kenyans to visit the internationally infamous shopping mall Westgate. Its reputation is as a result of the attack the world witnessed on 21st September 2013, where 4 gunmen representing the Islamist Group – Al-Shaabab- attacked the shopping mall leaving 67 dead and over 175 people wounded. Last month after almost two years, Westgate reopened its doors thus ushering in the New Dawn.
Prior to the opening the building stood – bullet holes and shattered glass still visible- a dark shadow reminding everyone what had happened there. This notwithstanding, I took it upon myself as a Muslim and as a Kenyan to be there when the ghost of Westgate was finally put to rest. During the re-opening ceremony where Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero among other established guests declared the mall back in business in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, being part of the crowd I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. Once inside, I spoke to one of the survivors (who asked not to be named) what is felt like to be back, her response: “today I am not a victim, I am a victor.” The sense and feeling of triumph was undeniably in the air, throughout the reopening just like that dark day in September 2013, Kenyans were one.
However, for some this was definitely not the case. Some people who survived the horrendous inhumane attack have vowed never to go back. “It’s not that being there will open closed wounds, my wounds will be with me forever and I have accepted that. It’s that going back means I am accepting all the unanswered questions I have posed to the government will never be solved,” says another survivor.
Since Westgate Al-Shaabab has continued to strike in Kenya, in April an even bigger attack was carried out in Garissa University where 148 people were massacred. Agreeing with the second survivor, no matter how many buildings we rebuild it will all count for nothing unless we kill the problem at the source. As Kenyans we need to demand our government to keep us safe at all times and at all places, so that no matter who comes at us we always remain one.