Kenya is reaffirming its commitment to bolstering security measures against Somali militants as it marks the 10th anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. This tragic incident, orchestrated by gunmen from Somalia’s al-Shabaab group, resulted in the loss of nearly 67 lives.
A decade after this horrific attack and a subsequent four-day siege by security forces, militant groups like al-Shabaab continue to launch sporadic attacks on Kenyan soil. Security analysts acknowledge that this tragic event prompted improvements in Kenya’s preparedness to counter such threats.
Raymond Omollo, a senior official from the Ministry of Interior, stated on Thursday that their ultimate goal is to maintain the highest level of surveillance along the nation’s borders and conduct covert and overt security operations throughout the country to neutralize threats before they materialize.
In commemoration of the anniversary, government officials placed white and red roses at the main entrance of the Westgate Mall. The mall, which offers the latest fashion, electronics, and fine dining, has remained a symbol of resilience and recovery for the nation.
Among the attendees was Richard Maige, a mall gardener and survivor of the attack. He recounted how he sought safety by diving into a culvert at the first sound of gunshots and used his knowledge of the facility to escape to safety. He expressed gratitude for his survival, acknowledging that many of his colleagues perished or were injured during the attack.
The 2013 Westgate Mall attack was in retaliation for Kenya’s decision to send its troops into Somalia in 2011 to combat al-Shabaab militants. At the time, Kenya faced criticism for its security forces’ disorganized response to the attack.
In the aftermath of the Westgate siege, Kenya took significant steps to enhance coordination among its security agencies and improve readiness to respond to emergencies. Notably, the response to the 2019 Dusit hotel and office complex attack in Nairobi, which resulted in at least 21 casualties, demonstrated a more efficient and coordinated response from Kenyan security forces.
In 2023, Kenya continues to face security challenges, particularly in the coastal county of Lamu, which shares a border with Somalia. A series of attacks in Lamu, blamed on al-Shabaab, have claimed the lives of 20 people this year. Additionally, the Kenyan government has deployed its military and other security forces to combat cattle rustlers and armed bandits in various counties within the East African Rift Valley region.