The 21st of September 2022 marked the ninth anniversary of the Westgate Mall siege. The events of that day marked one of the most painful periods for Kenyans. Over 67 innocent lives were lost at the hands of al Shabab terrorists and another 175 were injured with countless more left with emotional scars from the three-day ordeal. The attack changed the way of life for most Kenyans, including the security architecture in the country, particularly the perception of safety in public spaces such as shopping malls and business centers. The attack had a ripple effect of cataclysmic proportion; the public was fearful of public spaces, stereotyping of certain communities was openly evident, and the diplomatic community issued alerts to its citizens against visiting certain public places. The aftermath of these reactions forced the government and the business community to initiate a raft of interventions in response.
The State, working closely with business owners to ensure collaboration and synergy in areas where each has a comparative advantage has helped foster an environment of relative quiet.
Moving forward, the Government and security companies went ahead to improve the security of installations under their watch through the use of metal detectors, enforcing searches at public service vehicle pick-up/drop-off points and the security laws amendment Act of 2014. The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has also been involved in these interventions, working hard to build the capacities of organizations, businesses, and individuals by holding workshops and trainings to sensitize and educate them on how to prepare for, prevent, and respond to terror attacks on critical infrastructure and public spaces. The Centre also provides security assessment and survey exercises to various institutions in order to identify points of vulnerability in their security systems and provide suitable suggestions for remedial actions. These initiatives are central to NCTC's efforts to foster intelligence sharing, capacity building, and resilience against terrorism.
All these responses were initiated to bolster security at a time when terror organizations had scaled up their attacks globally. The State, working closely with business owners to ensure collaboration and synergy in areas where each has a comparative advantage has helped foster an environment of relative quiet. Additionally, this has helped ensure that positive resistance is built, weaknesses are eliminated, opportunities are explored, and threats are mitigated.
It is important to note that everyone has a role in ensuring critical infrastructure and public places are protected and guarded against terrorist threats. This more so extends to members of the general public, who, through their vigilance, have a responsibility to report suspected terrorist-related activity to the relevant authorities. This will ensure that our surroundings are safe for socio-economic development and prosperity, and a free and secure environment for both citizens and foreigners.