Kenyan terror-hit Westgate shopping mall reopens
The mall, which was once considered a symbol of Kenya’s growing affluent middle class, has been refurbished and damages repaired after it was almost destroyed by militants in September 2013.
The complex has now turned a totem of the country’s growing insecurity in the face of rising Islamist extremism and President Uhuru Kenyatta government’s inability to prevent frequent attacks in Kenya.
“Exactly 22 months ago we had one of the saddest days in Kenyan history. As a nation we cried, we mourned but … Westgate is back,” Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero told reporters Tuesday.
The governor said that the September 2013 attack was “one of the saddest days in Kenyan history”.
“They killed… our friends and relatives, but they did not kill our spirit,” he said after touring the building where workmen were slapping on final licks of paint and staff members were unfurling promotional banners.
According to Reuters, major Western brands, including Subway, KFC and Converse, plan to open stores in the new mall along with Kenyan companies such as Nakumatt, a high-end supermarket chain popular with well-heeled locals and expatriate workers.
The huge Nakumatt supermarket was completely destroyed when the army started a fire with a shell, which brought the whole structure down, the BBC said citing its Africa correspondent who also toured the refurbished structure.
Governor Kidero said that the reopening of the mall was significant because if symbolizes Kenyan defiance.
He said security has been stepped up in Nairobi and urged Kenyans to continue shopping in malls as the east African nation was open for business.
“Kenya is safer than ever. If it wasn’t, Obama wouldn’t be coming,” Kidero said, in reference to US President Barack Obama’s visit to his father’s homeland later this month.
Reuters said that a private Israeli company named I.R.G. has been tasked with ramping up security at the mall.
The company has about 25 specialist staff and will also use about 55 guards from a Kenyan security firm G4S.
The mall will have new safety features such as explosive detectors, luggage X-rays, scanners to check underneath cars, bollards to prevent car bombs, and bullet-proof guard towers.
“This will be the safest mall in the world,” Cohen, an I.R.G. employee who did not give his full name, told Reuters.
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