No doubt what happened in Nairobi in the past week when some jihadists stormed an upmarket shopping complex is nerve-chilling. Islamists belonging to the Somali al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants blasted their way into Westgate Shopping Mall and took positions in the multi-storey Nakumatt Supermarket shooting shoppers and workers with reckless abandon.
By the end of their madness 72 people, including at least six jihadists, were dead. Over 200 were injured. These figures may increase since authorities are yet to comb every nook andcranny of the vast complex.
The Kenyan capital is just two hours away from Lilongwe and Malawians pass through JomoKenyattaInternationalAirport daily, to say nothing about those Malawians resident there.
So, as Malawians, what happens in Kenya must concern us. What lessons, therefore, can we learn from this unfortunate incident?
For starters, let me say I was rather disappointed with the responses Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Uladi Mussa gave a radio station in the aftermath of the Nairobi massacre. The minister categorically said such an attack cannot happen here.
Really? Was Chenji Golo not in government in 2003 when the Bakili Muluzi administration arrested six suspected al-Qaeda operatives with the help of the CIA?
I think what we should be worrying about is not whether such attacks can happen here or not, but rather whether we are ready to respond effectively.
I have been to Westgate; it is a vast complex with notable security. But see how the Islamists beat the system. How can we fare, security-wise, if – God forbid! – we are visited with such an attack?
And how ready are our hospitals to deal such a large-scale emergency? We always read about drug stock-outs in our hospitals, to say nothing about our blood banks always thirsting for supplies.
We must think about these things, as my senior colleague Zebedee would put it.