Members of Al-Shabaab participate in a military parade.
- During the 2013 attack at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, 67 individuals fell victim to the brutality of Al-Shabaab militants.
- The assault was a response to the Kenyan government’s decision to send troops to Somalia for the purpose of combating Al-Shabaab.
- The Kenyan security forces faced severe criticism for their disorganized reaction to the attack, but claim to have since improved their preparedness.
As Kenya commemorated the tragic mall attack, the country vowed to strengthen security measures against Somali militants, and experts assert that the incident prompted improvements in Kenya’s ability to counter potential threats.
Over a decade after the attack in which 67 individuals lost their lives, Al-Shabaab militants continue to sporadically launch assaults within Kenyan territory.
“Our ultimate objective is to maintain the highest level of border surveillance and undertake covert and overt security operations across the nation to neutralize the enemy before they strike,” declared Raymond Omollo, a senior official from the interior ministry, in a statement marking the anniversary.
Government officials placed white and red roses at the entrance of the mall, a place frequented by affluent Kenyans and foreigners seeking the latest fashion, electronics, and exquisite dining experiences.
Among those present at the ceremony was Richard Maige, a survivor and mall gardener, who took shelter in a culvert upon hearing the initial gunshots and used his knowledge of the facility to navigate to safety.
“It was by the grace of God that I survived the attack. Many of my colleagues who were here perished or sustained injuries,” he remarked.
The attack was a retaliatory act following Kenya’s decision to deploy troops to Somalia in 2011 to confront Al-Shabaab militants.
At the time, the Kenyan security forces faced widespread criticism from the public and local media for their chaotic and uncoordinated response to the attack.
In the aftermath of the siege, Kenya has been actively improving coordination and preparedness among its security agencies to effectively respond to emergencies.
“Comparing the response to the Westgate attack with the Dusit attack in 2019, it is evident that the latter was handled much more efficiently,” noted Nicolas Delaunay, project director for East and Southern Africa at the International Crisis Group.
He was referring to an attack on the Dusit hotel and office complex in Nairobi, where at least 21 individuals lost their lives. Kenyan security forces received accolades for swiftly resolving the crisis in less than a day.
This year, al Shabaab is believed to be responsible for a series of attacks in the coastal county of Lamu, which borders Somalia, resulting in the deaths of 20 people.
The Kenyan government has also deployed the military and other security forces to combat livestock thieves and armed criminals in various counties within the Rift Valley of East Africa.