by Christine Lagat
Kenya’s upscale shopping mall Westgate which was closed nearly two years ago after a terrorist attack that claimed 67 lives was reopened on Saturday amid tight security.
Kenyan officials and management of the upmarket mall mainly frequented by high-income earners and foreigner reassured the public security that measures had been enhanced to deter repeat of a terrorist attack.
“We have reopened Westgate shopping mall to the public and there is no need for apprehension since there are stringent security measures in place to ensure no tragedy occur again,” said Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero.
Heavily armed terrorists from the Somalia based militant group Al-Shabaab stormed Westgate shopping mall at noon on September 21, 2013 and carried out an orgy of killings that left 67 civilians and security officers dead.
The Kenyan government later formed a taskforce to oversee the rehabilitation of the shopping mall. Kidero told reporters that majority of the business owners who rented space at the mall have agreed to resume operations.
He added that both the national and county governments have intensified surveillance at shopping malls in Nairobi.
The refurbished Westgate shopping mall will be manned by an elite team of security officers while sophisticated closed circuit cameras have been mounted in strategic positions to monitor movement of people and cars.
Atul Shah, Managing Director of Nakumatt Holdings, a regional retail chain, said business owners agreed to resume operations inside the mall based on security assurance from the landlord.
“We have both uniformed and plain clothe officers guarding these premises on a 24 hour basis. All the loopholes have been sealed to ensure there is no security lapse,” Shah said.
The regional retailer suffered heavy losses after the September 2013 terrorist attack in Westgate. Shah revealed the retailer has invested in state of the art technology to enhance security in key outlets.
The Director of Operations and Strategy at Nakumatt Holdings, Thiagarajan Ramamurthy said the retailer had stocked sufficient products to cater for a huge demand from customers.
“Our clients have in the last one year been enquiring when the Westgate branch will be reopened. Dedicated customers have overcome the past tragedy and are ready to shop at the Westgate outlet,” Ramamurthy said
Sales executives at Nakumatt Holdings and other major businesses at Westgate shopping mall cerebrated its reopening.
“I feel proud to witness the resumption of business after almost two years break. The atmosphere here is buoyant and we have confidence in the new security measures,” said Michael Njuguna, a sales executive of Nakumatt Holdings.
Customers too were jubilant as Westgate shopping mall reopened to the public.
“The past is behind us now and Westgate has risen from the ashes to reclaim its previous allure. I came here to shop for my favorite chocolate,” said Refin Kandenyi, a 24-year-old college student. Enditem