Weeks Later, Kenyan Mall Attack Affects Tourism, Political Stability

Oct 4, 2013

Crowds flee the sound of gunfire near the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya - September 21, 2013.
Credit Anne Knight / Wikimedia Commons

Weeks after the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed dozens of people, analysts are starting to make sense of the attack by the al-Shabaab Islamist group.

“Al-Shabaab has claimed this is in retaliation for Kenyan forces being in Somalia,” says Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies. “Kenya can expect to see more unless they change their policies.”

Cruise says the militant group has successfully recruited Western youth for years, with hundreds of people from the United States and Europe joining the organization.

“They actually have a campaign – English videos on the Internet and that sort of thing – that really calls on converts to Islam to come and fight the fight there in Somalia,” Cruise says.

Suzette Grillot, the Dean of the College of International Studies at OU and an expert on international security, says the attack also affects the country’s tourism industry.

“People are starting to think once again, 'Should we be going to these places?',” Grillot says. “Kenya has been a relatively stable place over the past decade, at least in Africa. So now there are concerns not only about terrorism, but reprisal attacks on Somali communities there.”

Cruise says even the targeting of that particular mall was strategic, since it was a vibrant economic hub usually filled with foreigners.

“This was intentional to show how powerful they are not only there, but to the Western audience,” Cruise says. “And to hit an area where economics is thriving, there will potentially be consequences for tourism, economic development and investment.”


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