Westgate mall to resume operations after two years

Westgate Mall which was attacked by terrorist on September 21.  [Photo: Moses Omusula/Standard]

By Ngari Gichuki and David Ochami

Nairobi, Kenya: It will take at least two years before operations can resume at the Westgate Shopping Mall.

This is according to experts who are conducting damage assessment of what remains of the mall after the September 21 terrorist attack that left the building in ruins.

Charles Kariuki said after inspection, they were shocked to find that at least 70 per cent of the building had suffered damage as the structure had internal cracks.

“We are currently doing non-destructive testing (NDT) on pillars to see the extent of stress and external damage they might have suffered.  NDT is a kind of X-ray technology that allows us to see inside solid structures without necessarily having to demolish them as is the case with the pillars in this mall,” said Kariuki.

He was speaking at the handing over of the building Tuesday to its owner Alex Trachtenberg by the Government after it was announced on November 11 that it was no longer a crime scene.

Gigiri police boss Vitalis Otieno presented the handover documents to Trachtenberg on behalf of the Government.

Otieno, however, assured that the police will continue offering round the clock security to prevent the mall from being looted as was the case when the military left the scene. He said that his officers had arrested 40 suspects who had earlier tried to loot the mall.

Alex expressed his joy at finally gaining entry to his building as he was soon planning to start repairs since the building was insured against terrorist attacks.

He, however, maintainedthat the management of the mall will not take liability for losses and damage of merchandise in shops as they are under the jurisdiction of shop owners.

During the tour of the mall to assess its damage, some tenants could be heard expressing their displeasure at the management of the mall, accusing them of not having adequate and well equipped security personnel at the time of the attack to prevent the loss of their investments.

Meanwhile, a court has ruled that the warrant of arrest issued against the ‘White Widow’ Samantha Louis Lewthaite two years ago at a Mombasa court was still in force.

 The arrest warrant, which has been re-issued by Interpol in the wake of the August 22 Westgate terrorism attack, has been in force since 2011 when the woman was charged in the court in absentia.

Tuesday, Mombasa Senior Principal Magistrate Joyce Gandani also extended the arrest warrant, which was issued against the British woman and her husband Habi Saleh Gani alias Osama.

 The case comes up for mention every month in anticipation that the woman will be arrested.