Westgate attack should offer us a lesson to always be alert, vigilant
Posted Thursday, September 26 2013 at 01:00
As we mourn our brothers and sisters who perished in the cowardly terrorist attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, I advise fellow Ugandans to be vigilant in all their day-to-day activities.
According to the Nairobi administration, the unfortunate event was not a mere attack but a unique and sensitive situation.
The occurrence first appeared as an armed robbery but later turned out to be one of the worst terror attacks East Africa has experienced since the 2010, July twin-bombings of football fans in Kampala.
An attack of this magnitude was last experienced in August, 1998, when both US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam were bombed.
As I watched the happenings unfold on television, I reflected on how Ugandans respond to terror threats. On several occasions, the police have sent out alerts to the public about suspected terrorists entering the country’s borders.
Ugandans normally think that it is a police tactic aimed at diverting attention from prevailing issues of the day. Following the Westgate attack, I, therefore, stand firmly to say it’s high time we learnt from Kenyans in the fight against terrorism.
Let Ugandans put aside their differences like our Kenyan neighbours have done to fight a common enemy whose common interests are beyond political ambitions and cousin aspirations.
Despite political differences between the Coalitions for Restoration of Democracy and the Jubilee government, their two leaders shared a podium for the first time since the Supreme Court ruling on the March 4 elections as they condemned and urged Kenyans to unite against terrorism.
The battle between the multi-agency security forces and the terrorists dragged on for almost four days. But with all the gunshots and suspense about what could be transpiring inside the mall, Kenyans from all walks of life donated blood in order to save the lives of injured victims currently receiving treatment in various Kenyan hospitals.
Well-meaning people showed solidarity by serving food and drinks to military personnel conducting the operation and to journalists coming from local and international media houses as they kept close watch, and updated the world with tidbits of the horrific incident. This self-less service should be emulated by all East Africans during trying moments of the sort.
Remember, today it might be them but tomorrow it could be us. I am not spreading fear but resounding a message of self-consciousness and encouragement as we prepare to prevent any activities of the terrorists – al-Shabab and its affiliates.
Victory against terrorism depends on the efforts and time every Ugandan dedicates to the fight. It does not need presence at the frontline in Somalia.
Your vigilance as you enter a public building, a taxi, an arcade, a mall or market will help save lives coupled with the ability to report all suspicious materials and unfamiliar persons around you to the police. For instance, you may need to know the exit and entry plan of every building you visit around the city.
Some of the survivors at the Westgate Mall managed to escape from the terrorists through ventilators and any available small passages. But this can only be possible if you take it upon yourself to think about a plan-B in case of similar circumstance. It is everyone’s duty to identify any loop-hole or any security laxity while attending an event with a huge gathering.
Terrorism does not discriminate. Whether you are in the opposition or government, it knows less of your race, nationality, status in society or religious affiliation as evidenced at the Westgate attack. I believe in unity, we can defeat terrorism.