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Kenya’s Westgate Survivors Reflect One Year Later

Source: Aljazeera
Source: Aljazeera

Nairobi, Kenya – September 21, 2013 began like any other day in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. It was a Saturday, and Ben Mulwa, a community organiser and politician, planned to meet two friends for lunch. They met around 11am at the Pony Plaza, and a couple of hours later they got into Mulwa’s car and drove to the adjacent Westgate Shopping Mall, to eat at the popular rooftop Java Café.

They drove through the main gates, and waited in a queue of cars until they reached the security barrier at the front, where – as is standard in much of Nairobi – a guard inspected their car. That was when the first gunshot went off.

“We thought it was a robbery because there were many high-end shops there,” says Mulwa. But the shot was followed by a second, then a third and fourth. “Within a few minutes, it got so intense. People were screaming all over, running.”

Mulwa’s car was trapped between the car behind it and the security barrier in front, so the only option for escape was to get out. “Still in my mind, I thought these intensified shots were because these guys were trying to clear traffic to exit through the Nakumat [a supermarket],” he told Al Jazeera.

Unsure which direction the bullets were coming from, Mulwa and his friends jumped out of the car and dispersed. One ran up to the rooftop; the other to the basement. Mulwa, still convinced it was a robbery, stayed near the car, ducking behind a low wall that he hoped would protect him from flying bullets.

“That’s when I saw all the security guards take off,” he said. “Some ran upwards towards the rooftop; others ran towards the basement. One hid right opposite where I was.”

At this point, Mulwa saw four gunmen approach. It crossed his mind that the situation might be more serious than he had thought.



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