Scores of shoppers thronged the Westgate Shopping Mall on Saturday when it reopened nearly two years after a terrorist attack that left 67 people dead.
Retail store Nakumatt, which has increased its presence in the mall from one store to eight, offered shoppers discounts for various items to celebrate the reopening.
Airtel, Subway restaurant, Art Caffe, Fed Ex, Barclays and Ashleys and other previous tenants have also returned to the mall that received global attention when it was attacked by the Al-Shabaab terrorists in September 2013.
Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet accompanied Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to the reopening, an event that was witnessed by hundreds including survivors of the attack.
Mr Kidero said the reopening of the mall was a sign of Kenyans’ resilience and determination despite the insecurity challenges they face.
“This is a sure sign of triumph of national resilience in the face of adversity. The attackers may have killed our friends and family members but they did not kill or break our spirit to rebuild,” he said.
Further, he said the Mall’s reopening, which comes days before the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, is an indicator of the position Nairobi lends itself as being an attractive place to invest, live and work.
“Security has also been stepped up in the city. The recent introduction of Neighbourhood Associations will ensure every ward has a registry of all its inhabitant, this will ensure any suspicious characters are weeded out,” the governor said.
Security was tight in and outside the mall. Signs warning people not to leave unattended luggage placed after every few feet. Likewise, motorists were required to park their cars outside on a parking lot the mall shares with Nakumatt Ukay.
IG Boinnet echoed Kidero’s sentiments, saying the reopening showed how resilient Kenyans are.
“I’m glad it’s reopened. It shows we will not be intimidated by these criminals and terrorists. We will fight back. We will lead normal lives. Whatever they do, we fight back and we are resilient,” he said.
Some former employees too, who were present when four gunmen stormed into the mall killing people, were happy to be back at their workplaces. Nakumatt Westgate branch manager David Muturi, who assisted to evacuate shoppers during the attack, said he is unbowed.
“I’m not afraid. You can die anywhere, on your way home, on the streets. If you were to die from a terror attack it may find you anywhere even in social places,” he said.
He said all the employees of the supermarket had been trained on how to respond during an attack and shoppers should not be worried.
“During the attack a number of people who were outside the supermarket rushed in instead of looking for exit points. But now we have more exit points,” he said.