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Westgate shop owners fault govt’s silence

Business owners at the Westgate shopping mall have complained of being kept in the dark by the government over the fate of the multi-billion shilling facility.

Al Shabaab militants stormed into the facility last Saturday, shooting at shoppers indiscriminately and staging a three day siege.

The shop owners say  the government is not forthcoming with regard to the facility’s structural condition following the collapse of three floors during the attack.

The shop owners also want  information on the alleged loss of items and cash.

“As stakeholders in the mall, we have many questions. We do not have adequate understanding of the events that went through that mall over the last 10 days.

“In terms of the plans for the future, we need more information. We need to understand what the assessment is of the building,” said Deacons CEO Wahome Muchiri.

Mr Wahome said that there were visible attempts to raid the cash tills and safes.

“We would like to understand how the damage got to this extent. In our view, if it was a gunfight, it had nothing to do with cash. So that’s a big question we’d like answered,” he said.

East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, who visited the site on Monday, had promised to set up a stakeholders committee that will include government agencies and the traders to work out a recovery plan.

Nakumatt Holdings managers and eye-witnesses told Nairobi News that the store was completely destroyed with nothing to salvage.  Their stocks were destroyed by a fire which, according to the Internal Affairs Secretary, was started by the militants.

What remained afterwards was smashed when the roof that acted as a car park caved in.

The store occupied two floors on one wing of the building.

“The supermarket is gone; 99 per cent. Those that are going in are going to salvage what they can from our Planet Media store,” said Atul Shah, Nakumatt Managing Director.

Most shop owners spent the better part of Monday taking away whatever had remained of their stocks under tight security.

Insurance assessors for various businesses were also on scene, with both Mr Wahome and Mr Shah saying they are waiting for a report of the losses incurred.

Both confirmed that they had taken insurance cover against terrorism acts.

Westgate shopping mall was the one of the most profitable outlets for Nakumatt and Deacons which had four stores in the facility.