Kenya aims to project an image of security as President Barack Obama makes his first official visit here this week—in part by reopening the Westgate mall nearly two years after it was the scene of a deadly terrorist attack. Hundreds of Kenyans flocked to the newly reopened shopping center amid bolstered security over the weekend, a sign, officials said, that the capital had rebounded. However, Kenya still has a long way to achieve security within their country. Kenya is still battling al-Shabaab militants from neighboring Somalia and homegrown extremists within their country.
President Uhuru Kenyatta seeks to show President Obama the gains his country has made in security. However, many are skeptical about what, if any, security gains have occurred since the the terrorist attack at the Westgate mall which left 67 people dead. Some have questioned whether the government has really learned any lessons from the incident at all. “Westgate gave us a grand moment to increase our national security and we did not seize the moment,” said Mwenda Mbijiwe, head of Nairobi-based Eye on Security Ltd.—a consulting firm for government and private clients. “One politician said, ‘Westgate will be to Kenya what 9/11 was to America.’ Oh, how we wish that was true!”
PHOTO: NOOR KHAMIS/REUTERS
Al-Shabaab has suffered greatly since the 2013 attacks. They have been forced out of most major Somalian cities and their numbers have been significantly reduced. A drone strike last year by the United States killed its leader and many experts believe the group to be in a steady state of dissolution. However, homegrown terrorist groups are on the rise in Kenya. U.S. Diplomats are still barred from vacationing in Kenya’s famed beach city Mombasa as a realization to what extent the Western world believes Kenya has achieved improvement in regards to their national security. Maybe the President has it on his agenda to lift this ban after his trip if he sees improvement. Kenya, a country whose economy relies heavily on tourism, can only hope..