Nairobi terrorist attack

by Simon Collings

I have just returned from Nairobi. The terrorist attack there last weekend on the Westgate shopping mall made headline news worldwide. During my stay I spoke to people who knew some of those who died, friends of friends. One was a young man who had gone to the mall to buy a barbeque set for the weekend. He was chatting on his mobile to his girlfriend when suddenly he said: ‘I hear gunfire, I have to go…’ That was the last time she heard his voice.

Events like this leave us all thinking: I could have been there. A colleague who regularly uses the mall, a popular hangout for expatriates, decided to stay on in Uganda last weekend rather than return to Nairobi. He could so easily have been there. I used to shop regularly at the mall when I lived in Nairobi.

In and around the mall as events unfolded people acted with astonishing courage to help their fellow citizens. Many people gave blood, many more donated money to the victim support fund. It reminded me of the 7/7 bombings in London — the bravery of people at the scene, the eerie calmness across the city, the determination to not be cowed.

I was in a part of town several miles away from the scene of the attack. Life went on normally in the streets around me. Apart from the news bulletins on TV and the newspaper headlines you would not have known anything unusual was happening. Ordinary Kenyans were showing their defiance of the terrorists, refusing to be intimidated, by getting on with life.

Lots of questions remain unanswered about what actually happened, how the security services failed to pick up on the terror group’s plan, how good the response of the army was. The information from government was often confusing and contradictory. Rumours and stories are circulating on social media. The truth is hard to get at.

But don’t let this event put you off going to Kenya. The best way we can show our solidarity with the victims and their families is to stand with them.