Kenya Faces Tourism Downswing After Westgate Mall Attack

The rest of the world is watching closely after Nairobi Westgate Mall shooting

By Anna Desmarais, Staff Writer

“The gunshots sounded just like music”, said Carleton student Samar Abdi in an interview with CBC radio while reflecting on the Nairobi Westgate Mall shooting from which she survived on Saturday. “It was complete chaos.”

The long-standing terrorist group under the Somalian control of Al-Shabaab has been bombarding the upscale mall since September 21nd, leaving at least 68 dead and 172 injured. The death toll from this political event is on the rise, according to the Kenyan Red Cross despite the “uncertainty” surrounding the scale of the damage.

In their September 23rd report on humanitarian initiatives in Kenya to control the aftermath, spokesperson Dr. Abbas Gulle quoted that “it is unclear as to the state of the hostages” and that “some of the hostages have been released.” Kenyan Security experts elaborated in the National Post that “ten [hostages are being kept] who form a multicultural collection from all over the world.”

The victims themselves span a global range of ethnicities – most notably from Britain, France, Peru, India, China, and South Africa.  It has been confirmed that two Canadians were killed during the gruesome events.

According to multiple survivors of the attack, Al-Shabaab’s gunmen questioned hostages on whether they were Muslim or not. For those that were, they were promptly released. Those that weren’t continue to struggle under the vigilance of these gunmen, despite some governmental interference.

The question of religion lends speculation on the rationale behind the attack. According to multiple news sources, Al-Shabaab’s terrorism spurns from the resentment caused by the Kenyan involvement with Operation Linda Nchi launched in southern Somalia in an attempt to destroy an Al-Shabaab’s group in late 2011. Al-Shabaab “vowed” to seek revenge on the Kenyan people that cooperated with the Somalian government in this conflict, as demonstrated by Saturday’s events.

Events at Westgate Mall might not be the last from the Al-Shabaab group. In his personal Twitter account, he tweeted that “we aint even done yet, operation linda nchi will be forgotten after this and many more to come #westgateattack” and released several possible dates for further terror, the soonest of which is October 20th.

The consequences for Kenya, aside from the rising toll of dead citizens, include possible economic decline due to a decrease in tourism – the third largest resource of revenue for the Kenyan economy. Although the overall GDP in 2012 showed a 4.4% growth rate according to the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), terrorism-related activity has stunted the potential for a larger net growth, especially with its possible rise in the oil sector.

Updates on the events in Kenya run hourly in order to explain the overall picture.

Anna Desmarais is a first-year Carleton University Journalism student who aspires to write about business or international affairs for a newsroom someday. Although she finds herself on the swinging pendulum of political beliefs, she is actively engaged in issues regarding social justice and freedom of the press. If interested in her work or daily insights, please consider: https://twitter.com/anna_desmarais or http://annaedesmarais.wordpress.com/.

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