The truth, of course, is more prosaic

0
972

BBC – This is a compassionate, chaotic, occasionally violent, exceptionally tolerant nation – a country that has absorbed vast numbers of refugees over the years with barely a shrug.

But two years ago, Kenya’s patience with Somalia finally snapped, and it sent troops across the border – hoping to create a buffer zone of stability.

Al-Shabab immediately and repeatedly promised to respond with exactly the sort of carnage that finally engulfed Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre.

The details of the attack and the attackers are still being sifted from the ruins. Was the British widow, Samantha Lewthwaite involved? Was this a Somali revenge operation. Or was it part of a much broader global al-Qaeda agenda?

It was certainly well planned.

‘Methodical evil’
You will have heard the stories: Of methodical evil, of children shot at point black range, of grenades tossed into blood-drenched rooms.

And you may have seen the pictures – of startling, selfless courage. Of unarmed men running into danger, again and again, to coax families literally paralysed with fear, to race to safety.

Nairobi has always felt like a small town. Almost everyone I know here has lost a friend, or had a narrow escape, or has some other visceral personal connection to the horrors of Westgate.

Yusuf Hasan lives just down the road from the shopping centre. He is still in a wheelchair after a grenade was thrown at him last year, possibly by a member of al-Shabab. Yusuf is a Somali Kenyan, and a member of parliament.

“We always go to Westgate on Saturday morning,” he told me. But by chance, not this time. Even after the grenade attack I felt safe in this city. But that’s changed completely now.

Yusuf feels the Westgate attack has pulled Kenya closer together – united it in grief and outrage – and he thinks that will last.

But in parliament, they’re already asking tough questions – about why the security services took hours to respond properly. About corruption and infighting in the intelligence services. About how Kenya’s army should fight back and whether it should allow itself to be dragged even deeper into the war in Somalia.

I’ve not been able to reach Dr Nur this week. His phone rings unanswered.

But I imagine him at his clinic in Mogadishu, waiting for whatever the ambulance brings next, and wondering if his young relative will ever call again.