First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Thursday led survivors of the 2013 Westgate attack in a memorial service whose theme was peace and unity as the country heads to the October presidential election.
Survivors of the attack in which 67 people died while hundreds of others were injured relived their experiences with most describing the Saturday morning incident as a “cowardly terrorist act.”
During the memorial service held at the Visa Oshwal Centre in Westlands, Nairobi, to mark four years since the raid, the survivors said the al-Shabaab wanted to intimidate Kenyans but the country had emerged stronger.
Participants donated blood in support of maternal health care at the event which was also graced by British High Commissioner Nic Hailey.
PEACE, FORGIVENESS, GRATITUDE
“We need peace, forgiveness and gratitude. We forgave them so that we can move on,” said one of the survivors, Ms Shamim Allu, who was hit by a grenade.
Mr Ben Mulwa, a personal assistant to Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who escaped with a bullet in his body, said: “Terrorists are cowards. We must never allow ourselves to be intimidated by them.”
The siege at Westgate lasted four days, with CCTV footage showing terrified shoppers fleeing for cover as hooded gunmen shot at them indiscriminately. Large parts of the shopping centre were destroyed as Kenyan security forces fought the terrorists.
Islamist group al-Shabaab said it carried out the attack in response to Kenya’s military incursion in Somalia. All four gunmen are believed to have died during the assault.
COURAGE AND SACRIFICE
Mrs Kenyatta said the memorial marked a day when Kenyans were inspired by the courage and sacrifice of many patriots whose lives are a true testament of the endurance and strength of the human spirit.
“The event is a memory of pain and sadness but also a remembrance that we should stand together and be united as a country,” said Mrs Kenyatta.
Mr Hailey said: “It was an attack against the global community. It was a senseless act of hatred.”
Photojournalist Joseph Mathenge, who was part of the team that rescued survivors, said the attack reminds Kenyans of the need for solidarity.