A new documentary on the Westgate Mall attack form last year appeared online on Tuesday. This video was the one that was allegedly shown on American TV network HBO and is a powerful piece of journalism produced and directed by Dan Reed.
It starts with people having a typical Saturday morning in Nairobi headed to the Westgate Mall. One of them is there to work so she sets up a stand to sell. Another is a lady who has gone shopping with her kids. A gentleman has gone to do some shopping.
It all unravels as men attack the mall with guns and a mission to cause the highest amount of damage. The men are four and go in two waves. One group of two starts at the ground floor and shoots their way into the mall causing havoc and death. People run into the Nakumatt supermarket and the two go about their merry way shooting their way in killing anyone that moved.
The other two go the top of the mall and start by killing people who had come to a cooking competition that had been organized by East FM. They execute their mission and then move to lower levels.
At one point seven good guys, five plain clothes officers and two civilians who are licensed to carry handguns, go into the mall and execute one of the most daring rescue missions in Kenyan history as the SWAT team wait outside for instructions from above to act. These seven people are the ones that save the most people from various part of the mall.
Eventually the army guys storm the place shooting anyone that moved; including at the police officers who had been at the venue leaving one officer dead. Eventually the mall is secured by the army and an explosive device blown up in the venue and there is no footage after this.
The beauty of the documentary is that it uses footage from the many cameras in the venue to tell the story so you don’t have to be told too much. There are firsthand accounts of the survivors from the attack with a starring role for Abdul Haji the dashing young man who was at the forefront of saving so many lives as well as a corporal who was shot. Those who were there give a very bizarre recounting of the attackers which showed both their brutality as well as their compassion leaving some to go safe where they killed others mercilessly.
One of the most moving things in that documentary for me was the view of my former colleague Ruhila Adatia laying on the floor with her hands out asking for help before she is carried into an ambulance. That as far as I know the last image of her alive. You can see that at 33.59 minutes into the movie.
The movie illustrates what we all know. This was an attack by Al Shabaab attacking Kenya for their invasion of Somalia. It also puts to death myths that have come from the event. There were no mattresses burning in the mall as alleged by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku. That was the army’s doing.
Ultimately the lesson from that day is that our security forces are one of the most uncoordinated ones around which is why they were killing one another instead of killing the bad guys. They should have acted sooner as this would probably have saved more lives.
As we come to one year after the attacks there are several events to remember that traumatic few days that will not be forgotten soon that saw 67 dead, hundreds injured and millions traumatised. The Storymoja Festival is currently having one at the National Museum one that started on the 15th of September and will be running for a month. If you are in Nairobi please check it out.