Seth Onyango @SethManex
Tears flowed freely as hundreds of victims of the 1998 United States embassy bombing in Nairobi convened at the August 7th Memorial Park yesterday to mark 20th anniversary since the heinous attack.
Survivors of the tragedy also attended the event that saw emotions run high as families recounted how their loved ones perished in the terror attack while others sustained life-threatening injuries.
There was dead silence as names of the 224 people who perished in the attack were read out, with victims and survivors holding candles in memory of loved ones and compatriots.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec hailed Kenyans for having risen with a stronger determination to stand together for freedom, justice and peace following the terror attack that shook the nation.
A similar attack, masterminded by Al-Qaeda, targeted the US embassy in Tanzania, claiming more than 10 lives.
“The terrorists sought to sow fear and division but failed. In the moment and days that followed the blast, your heroism stands in tribute to compassion and to all that is best in humanity. I want to thank all those who helped to build and maintain this memorial,” he said.
The envoy said the US government would continue standing with victims and families who lost loved ones. Victims, however, accused the government of abandoning them in the hour of need, saying they had not been compensated for their loss.
“We appeal to our government and the US government to come to our rescue because we want to lead normal lives again,” said Catherine Madegu, a primary school teacher whose husband died in the attack, leaving her with six children to raise.
“We feel abandoned by the government,” she said. More than 200 Kenyans, 12 Americans and a Rwandese died in the blast. The memorial is a private affair, with only close relatives of the victims admitted into the park.
Douglas Sidialo, who went blind after the attack, said the events of that fateful day will remain indelibly etched into his memories. He said he has since forgiven the attackers.
National Counter-Terrorism Centre director Amb Martin Kimani, who represented the government, called for global synergies to fight terrorism.
“The will of Kenyans has manifested in increased resources and training to counter terrorists,” he said, adding: “However, the risk remains.”