(PSCU) Survivors of the 2013 Westgate shopping mall terrorist attack in Nairobi today sent strong messages of national forgiveness, peace, unity and gratitude as the country marked the fourth anniversary of the massacre that claimed 67 lives.
Forgiveness to the unprovoked Al-Shabaab linked Somali Islamist gunmen who executed the senseless bloody orgy by hurling grenades and shooting scores in cold blood with automatic rifles inside a busy mall.
And gratitude to Kenyan armed forces and scores of patriotic citizens who risked their lives to stop the murderous and indiscriminate killings.
During the memorial anniversary graced by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta , the survivors described the Westgate assault as a “cowardly terrorist act”-aimed at intimidating Kenyans- but from which they had emerged victorious
“We need peace, forgiveness and gratitude. We forgive them so that we can move on”, said one of the victors, Ms Shamim Allu, who was hit by a grenade and braved five bullets on the back, hand and legs and waited for four hours before help could reach her.
Initially,said Ms Allu, she did not experience any pain. She was too numbed and shocked to start understanding the magnitude of her injuries. But she was awake and conscience until the first help-from an armed police reservist in civilian clothes- reached her.
“Now my mission is to be a peace ambassador. We need peace in Kenya”, she stressed during the memorial anniversary held at the Visa Oshwal Community Centre, Westlands , a few metres from the epicentre of the attack.
Mr Dharmesh Vaya who lost his wife and sister-in-law during the attack had 10 family members inside the mall, eight of them rescued alive by Kenyan armed forces and brave Kenyans like photo-journalist Joseph Mathenge who joined the rescuers for the love of a friend and country.
Among Mr Dharmesh’s 10 family members who survived were his 6-year old child and 16 year old daughter who could not join the other survivors because she is sitting for her under-graduate doctorate examinations at the University of Nairobi where she is a top-notch student.
“It is difficult to forget, but let’s forgive them. We cannot be thinking of what happened for ever”, said Dharmesh adding that his three children and two others left by his sister-in-law have given him the motivation and reason to continue with life.
Comforting the victors and honouring those who lost their lives, the First Lady said the memory of the Westgate attack brings much pain and sadness but reminds Kenyans to stand together in solidarity against terrorism
She said the attack shattered and changed the lives and dreams of affected people forever. Those affected included fathers, mothers, sons, brothers and daughters.
The First Lady said the memorial also serves as 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.
Besides, Ms Allu, Ms Angeeta Patel, Mathenge, scores of other survivors attended the memorial including Mr Ben Mulwa, the PA to Nairobi governor Mike Sonko who escaped with a bullet in his body.
“Terrorists are cowards. We Must never allow ourselves to be intimidated by these terrorists”, said Mulwa who a day after September 21, 2013 attack emerged from the hospital to address the media on why his spirit could not allow himself to be bowed down by the terrorists.
The First Lady also launched a second blood donation mobile unit donated by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom under their partnership with Kenya’s BloodLink Foundation.
The First Lady thanked the BloodLink Foundation, through its Executive Director Mr Joseph Kang’endo who was present, for bringing blood donation services closer to the people through its two mobile units.
“I appreciate the work they are doing in raising awareness on the importance of blood donation to prevent unnecessary health risks and deaths”, said the First Lady who also mingled and interacted with both blood donors and the Westgate victors.
She expressed confidence over the positive spirit by Kenyans to support causes that touch the lives of men and women, the youth and children, the elderly and vulnerable communities.
The First Lady also thanked the National Health Service (UK) for donating the second Mobile Blood unit to Kenya, the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service for making progress in mobilizing blood donation services and all the people who donated blood during today’s memorial events.
British High Commissioner Nic Hailey described the Westgate assault as a horrific and cowardly attack which also claimed some Britons.
“It was an attack against the global community. It was a senseless act of hatred” , said Hailey adding that the civilized world should refuse to be divided and people’s lives changed by terrorists.
During the anniversary, the First Lady was honoured with a standing ovation for her exemplary work and determination towards maternal health across the country.
Other speakers included Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe , Visa Oshwal Community Centre Vice Chairman Jinit Shah and Mr. Kang’endo.