News / Africa

Kenya's Wounds Will Linger After Mall Siege

Kenya's Wounds Will Linger After Mall Siegei
X
September 25, 2013 3:27 PM
Kenya has declared three days of mourning for the victims of the terrorist attack on a mall in the capital, Nairobi. But as VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow reports, it may take much longer for the country’s emotional wounds to heal.
Gabe Joselow
— Kenyan mental health workers say the terrorist siege on a shopping mall in the capital Nairobi will leave lasting scars on the nation’s psyche.  Victims and soldiers alike are trying to cope with the trauma of the attacks, which left more than 60 people dead and nearly 200 wounded.
 
The gunshots have stopped, as have the sporadic explosions.  The helicopters no longer circle the skies above the Westgate shopping center.
 
But for four days, the mall was the scene of unspeakable horror, inflicted by a group of al-Shabab militants armed with guns and grenades, and intent on killing as many people as they could: men, women and children.
 
Loi Awat, a television writer in Nairobi, hid in a Barclays bank branch inside the Nakumatt supermarket at the mall for four hours as the gunmen rampaged through the aisles.
 
“For some time we in the bank didn’t know they were terrorists, we thought they were coming to rob the bank," she said."Then they didn’t come and we thought they were robbing Nakumatt because they spent so much time around Nakumatt, then we heard them saying something in Arabic and we were like ‘Oh my God.’”
 
Awot said she remembered every detail, the voices of the militants, the moment the television, still on inside the bank, started broadcasting news of the attack.
 
She sent messages to her friends on the outside to give them as much information as she could to try to save her life.
 
Now, she tries not to think about it.
 
“It’s one of those things that once you experience it, you can’t unexperience it," she said. "It’s one of those things that the feeling of being there is so significant, its so clear, you can’t not be changed, or you can’t not think differently after that, after such a thing.”
 
During the siege, the Red Cross recruited mental health counselors to speak with families and victims and to help guide them through the traumatic ordeal.  
 
At the Oshwal community center a block away from the Westgate mall, volunteer psychologists shared cups of tea with the bereaved.
 
Coping with tragedy

Dr. Gladys Mwiti, the chair of the Kenya Psychological Association, says doctors have adopted strategies to cope with tragedy learnt from past events, including Kenya’s last major terrorist attack, the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in 1998.
 
Speaking to journalists on the last day of military operations, she said the impact of Westgate will be worse than that.
 
"The reason being this is an extended period of time.  With the bombing, it happened and things stopped," she said. "But then we know that this has been like a bleeding thing. “
 
Fear, anxiety and apprehension are all symptoms Mwiti says people experience after traumatic events. Another one is false guilt.
 
“False guilt is like saying, ‘Why did I have to allow my wife and my baby to go to Nakumatt on that day to do shopping?’  Of course nobody knew it would happen,” she said.
 
Counselors also met with Kenyan soldiers who fought the exhausting battle against a dangerous and unpredictable opponent and who witnessed first-hand the gruesome scene inside the mall.
 
Psychologist June Koinange worked with soldiers at the Oshwal center.
 
“Let’s put it this way," she said. "There are some things that of course we cannot share, but they share with us, but we cannot share publicly.  However, one of the things that came out very strongly for us was the fact that they appreciated the fact that somebody cares enough to ask them ‘how are you feeling?’”
 
After announcing victory over the militants, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of mourning for the country.  
 
But healing a traumatized nation will likely take somewhat longer.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid