Kenya rebuilds mall that was site of Al Shabaab massacre in 2013. Has it rebuilt peace?
Kenyan authorities say the country's spirit has prevailed and assure shoppers of safety. But the US has issued a travel warning for Kenya in light of President Barack Obama's visit to the country in 10 days.
On Saturday, Kenya’s Westgate Mall will reopen its doors after being cloed for nearly two years following a massacre that left at least 67 dead, the Associated Press reports.
On Sept. 21, 2013, eight self-declared jihadis from Somali militant group Al-Shabaab stormed the Nairobi shopping complex with guns, launching a seige that lasted four-days until security forces killed them.
“The indomitable Kenyan spirit prevailed, they didn’t break our spirit,” said Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, The AP reported.
Some shop owners reflected this resilience.
“As patriotic Kenyan business people, we are confident that Westgate Mall will arise from the ruins to greater heights than it ever was,” Terry Mungai, owner of Ashleys Beauty centre, told Kenya’s Business Daily. Her store will now have five times as much space as it did before the attack, she added.
Kidero told the AP that every business that had a shop in the mall is back.
Subway, KFC and Converse franchises are among those to restart business, according to Reuters.
New security features will include explosive detectors, luggage X-rays, scanners to check underneath cars, bollards to prevent car bombs, and bullet-proof guard towers, Reuters reported.
Kidero reassured citizens the country was safe, pointing to US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the country as evidence.
Obama is scheduled to give a speech to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi, which will start on July 24.
But the US has issued a travel warning for US citizens heading to Kenya – singling out the conference as a reason for heightened risk of terrorist attacks.
The statement noted: “As with all large public events, there is the opportunity for criminal elements to target participants and other visitors. Large-scale public events such as this Summit can also be a target for terrorists.”
The alert expires on July 30, after the summit ends.
The Christian Science Monitor’s Paula Rogo reported last week: “Since 2013, [al-Shabab] has attacked Kenya 63 times, according to data as of late April from the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.”
Al Shabaab has killed more than 400 people on Kenyan soil over the last two years, according to Reuters.
In April, gunmen killed 147 people at a university in the town of Garissa.
Just last week, Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for killing 14 people in the Kenyan village of Mandera.
Vice reports since the tragedy at Westgate mall, Kenyan authorities have detained four Somalis allegedly connected with the attack.
The BBC reported that some Kenyans questioned whether a memorial should have been built instead of the renovated mall.