We hid in office for 12 hours as it rained bullets, ex-NTV boss narrates Dusit ordeal
Former NTV Uganda Managing Director Aggie A. Konde was among those trapped in a Nairobi complex – where her offices are – when terrorists struck on Tuesday afternoon.
She narrated her ordeal to the Daily Monitor.
It all started when my team went out for lunch; we were welcoming two new members to Msingi and it’s our culture to take our teams out on their first day of work.
I didn’t join [them] because I had a skype meeting so I stayed behind but they took much longer than they normally do and I was wondering what was wrong.
So I called my PA (personal assistant) who said they were wrapping up but said they had had the worst experience ever at Dusit restaurant. Dusit has such impeccable service that I was surprised to hear that they had a terrible service.
When they got back to office, they told me that they could not be served, the service was too slow… 10 minutes after that (they got back at about 10 to 3pm, I think), the first blast went off. It was very, very loud.
We had no clue whether it was in our building, or the next building, so immediately I got up and asked: “Are we safe?” Everybody was running around so I just kept following the crowd.
I got out of the office, went to the corridor, everybody was running down. When I tried to join the crew running down, we met a group of guys; they shouted “go back, go back…” so we went back to lock ourselves in the offices.
The rest of the team managed to run away but somehow 10 of us stayed in the office. We tried to use the emergency escape route to get out of the building. When we were almost halfway down that route, we saw gunmen down so we had to come back, we were sandwiched.
We could not escape through the main route, we could not escape through the emergency route. So we found a safe place where we could hide – in the server room.
The server room is the coldest [and smallest] place in the office and we were 10 people all holed up in the same space.
CONFUSION AND FRUSTRATION
The first hour there was the most confusing, frustrating! I didn’t know whether it was Aggie the leader, Aggie the mother or Aggie me… I just didn’t know what to do [for everybody], they were crying, worried, trying to reach for their phones, batteries had run out.
That’s when I sent out my first tweet because I thought, by the time I call our head of security; probably they are also running around. And that’s how everything started unfolding. I tried to keep a very positive mind-set because I had nothing I could control.
I had two phones; when they said Aggie run, I did two things: I picked my gym bag and I picked my two phones. That was just my instinct… and my car key. I used one phone until it blacked out then I reserved the second for emergencies.
But I never thought we were going to be in that room for 12 hours because the first response we got from the outside was “guys, now KDF has taken over, guys are clearing the place so they should be getting to you anytime.”
So when it got to 6, 7, 8 hours… I said these guys are also human beings, they must be fatigued because I was also fatigued.
I had been standing all those 8 hours and my body couldn’t take it. So I sneaked out of the server room for a moment and got into my office, and picked my chargers.
I managed to power the phones and I was in touch with my colleagues, family members… everyone on the outside knew we were in trouble.
Security forces knew which floor we were but nobody knew exactly where we were on that floor. I refused to give that detail until I was super sure I was not talking to a terrorist.
Our experience was really an inward experience because we had nothing from the outside except what I was seeing on social media and I was very particular not to see any videos or pictures because they were going to really scare the hell out of us.
All we could hear in that space was everyone breathing and then gunshots and blasts. Those were happening like every 10 minutes and when they happen, they happen like for 3-5 minutes and you do not know where they are coming from.
We kept wondering if bullets would rip through and get to us. We kept praying and hoping for the best.
At two particular points, a group of people – I don’t know who they were the good or bad guys – came and banged the entrance of our office. Our entry door is a glass door.
They hit it but [it] failed to break completely [but] we could not come out to check. If they were terrorists they are going to come and just smoke us out of here. If they were KDF they would probably have got and rescued us.
On the other hand, we were speaking to the different coordinators and they were telling us the rescuers were approaching anytime and that we should keep of the phone and keep heads down… it was so confusing.
After about another 40 minutes, [some] guys came and banged the door. But that was like from 9pm, then at 9:45pm and then again at about 11:25pm. After that we were only hearing gunshots.
So we just thought we could be safe. We started planning all sorts of Plan B’s and Plan C’s which were too risky but thank God we never attempted them.
One of the plans was to try and jump off the window and just cross into Westlands because there is a river on the other side of our office but it was difficult for me because I had to make sure that all my nine people could do that and I wasn’t so sure that they could. We were on the first floor.
At about 2am, everybody started getting really tired and I think some people slept off. At 3am sharp, I saw flashlights on the floor of my office.
At this point now we had got out of the server room. I had managed to get half the team in my office, which is mostly glass with some parts opaque so somebody cannot see and then the others were in the other rooms.
[When] I saw flashlights, I was praying to God that they were from KDF. Electricity had been disconnected from the whole facility at about midnight so the server room was not a place we could stay in. It was too dark and there was no oxygen so [we risked and got out].
We moved to the offices, created some sort of barricades around the place with tables but really it is God that took us through all this.
3am being a typical Christian Catholic hour, I knew it was a moment of hope, and I was like oh Mother Mary, something is coming.
So I crawled to a point where I could see and I kept seeing so many footsteps walking around and they were so calculative until a point when one of them called my name.
RESCUED AT LAST
Aggie, KDF!, Amos, KDF… they had a whole list because we had shared our names with the British High Commission, the American Embassy, and the Ugandan High Commission.
So I said, “I think KDF is here; let’s go out.” But people [did not believe]. Just getting everybody out was a nightmare because we were scared! Do we put our hands up?
Do we shout hallelujah? And then they told us quiet! quiet! because some of the terrorists were still in the block above us and others were still in the block opposite us.
They put us in the outside corridor and we had to escape through our rescue route to the back end of the hotel and like they say, the rest is history.
The team on the ground was awesome. There was a medical team; a counselling team, and families that had been camping [there] for all these hours.
They had arranged a place for us to stay for those who wanted; there was transport for everybody to be dropped home.
Hearing the President say x number of people died, you’re like “oh my goodness!”, I could have been one of them. Who am I? I am really just trying to process and thank God that I am alive.
My whole team is intact, physically and emotionally, I am not sure, it’s a journey we have to walk.”