Kenya's mall reopens two years after massacre

Kenya's Westgate shopping mall reopened last Saturday with stepped-up security, including armed police outside and plain-clothes private security guards inside. In September 2013, gunmen from the Somali militant group al-Shabaab massacred at least 67
Kenya's Westgate shopping mall reopened last Saturday with stepped-up security, including armed police outside and plain-clothes private security guards inside. In September 2013, gunmen from the Somali militant group al-Shabaab massacred at least 67 people inside the complex.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NAIROBI • The Westgate shopping mall in Kenya has reopened, nearly two years after gunmen from the Somali militant group al-Shabaab massacred at least 67 people inside and held out for four days as security forces laid siege to the complex.

Once a totem of Kenya's growing prosperity, the mall has since become symbolic of growing insecurity in the east African nation and President Uhuru Kenyatta's inability to prevent frequent Islamist attacks on Kenyan soil.

Images beamed across the world during the September 2013 raid dented Kenya's image abroad and scared off tourists, damaging a vital sector of the economy.

Kenya's embarrassment was compounded by Westgate security footage, which showed soldiers looting the mall after the militants were killed.

Nairobi governor Evans Kidero said the mall's reopening showed the resilience of the Kenyan people. "I know there will be apprehension but as a country, we are safer than ever and we will continue to work to ensure that our country is safe," he added.

UNDAUNTED

I know there will be apprehension but as a country, we are safer than ever and we will continue to work to ensure that our country is safe.

NAIROBI GOVERNOR EVANS KIDERO, on how the reopening of the mall shows the resilience of the Kenyan people

Thousands of people turned up at Saturday's reopening, and stores and restaurants across the mall were crowded with patrons.

Major Western brands, including Subway, KFC and Converse, have outlets in the new mall along with Kenyan companies such as Nakumatt, a supermarket chain popular with well-heeled locals and expatriate workers.

"When terrorists attack, one of their main aims is to ensure that where they destroy, people pull down those buildings and put up memorial parks, but in Westgate, we refused to do that," said shopper Eric Muluka.

But, in a reminder of the security threat, armed police guarded the mall's entrance.

Meanwhile, private security guards in plain clothes patrolled the building, wearing earpieces for communication.

Israeli firm I.R.G. has been put in charge of security.

New features include explosive detectors, luggage X-rays, scanners to check underneath cars, bollards to prevent car bombs and bullet-proof guard towers.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Kenya's mall reopens two years after massacre'. Print Edition | Subscribe