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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 02:18 GMT
Kenya mourns a year after attack
By Noel Mwakugu
Former BBC Mombasa reporter

On Friday survivors of the terrorist attack at the Israeli-owned Mombasa Paradise Hotel a year ago converge at the site for prayers.

Mombasa Paradise hotel
Relatives have been ignored since the bombing
Fifteen people died after suicide bombers struck the hotel in Kikambala, north of Mombasa, on 28 November, minutes after Israeli tourists checked in, leaving a trail of destruction

Yet the death toll could have been much worse as two missiles narrowly missed an Israeli passenger jet taking off from Mombasa airport on the same day.

When I first got to the hotel, smoke was billowing from the burning hotel and bodies of the victims were strewn over the floor.

Pieces of flesh, possibly belonging to the bombers themselves, were beneath my feet, while the smell of charred flesh choked those who arrived first on the scene - the rescuers, police and shocked villagers.

Tears

Today, Paradise Hotel is deserted and neglected. It is still a scene of bitterness.

We have wiped our tears and today we relaunch our troupe
Safari troupe coordinator Goodluck Mbagah
Survivors feel neglected for no help has come to them and their wounds are slow to heal.

"I feel like it just happened, my tears still fall, I lost my husband - the only bread winner and nothing is being said about compensation. Only God will pay," said Mufida Mohammed

Her husband Winfred Owour was a taxi driver at the hotel. He died after spending days at the Pandya hospital intensive care unit where victims were rushed.

Rebirth

Five members of the safari cultural troupe - the dancers who were entertaining the tourists when the bombs went off - died.

Muslim protestors
Muslims feel victimised by the security forces
They all came from Msumarini village about 20 kilometres from Mombasa, but today marks a rebirth for the group.

"We lost our leader Mzee Safari Charo, but we have to move on, this is our source of income, we have wiped our tears and today we relaunch our troupe," said Goodluck Mbagah who is now co-ordinating the dancers.

The villagers and hotel workers who bore the brunt of the attack only received $40,000 from the government and well wishers to share among them.

Both the Kenyan and Israeli government are silent over plans to compensate the survivors.

Tourism

To date, police investigations into the terrorist attack have not been concluded. Six people have appeared in court but their case is yet to begin.

However, a feeling of mistrust has deepened between Muslims and the government as a result of the subsequent security crackdown.

I must tell you there is a lot of hope and we are getting set to do a major promotion exercise in the UK through Kenya Tourist Board. This publicity campaign will boost the sector
Mohammed Hersi
Kenyan security minister Chris Murungaru insists that al-Qaeda operatives exist in Mombasa and says the security forces are determined to track them down.

Muslim leaders feel this statement has been made to justify the persecution of their followers. Hundreds of them have been rounded up by police pursuing alleged terrorists in Mombasa since the attack, but have been released without charges.

What the attacks have also done is accelerate the decline of tourism in Kenya.

The UK and US Governments slapped a travel ban on the destination fearing further attacks on their citizens.

This resulted in massive cancellations on holiday bookings leading to an almost complete tourism collapse. Some hotels closed down and at least 16,000 people lost their jobs.

'Little hope'

Finally hotels are talking up prospects again, but there is no doubting the severe impact the sector has suffered over the past year.

Mohammed Hersi general manager of the Whitesands Hotel, says things are just starting to pick up again - a year on.

"I must tell you there is a lot of hope and we are getting set to do a major promotion exercise in the UK through Kenya Tourist Board. This publicity campaign will boost the sector," he said.

But although the UK flight ban has been lifted, many of the UK's charter operators have still not resumed their services.

And for many down in Mombasa who lost relatives or lost their jobs following the attacks, there remains little to look forward to as Christmas approaches.




SEE ALSO:
Police crackdown in Mombasa
01 Sep 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
22 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Kenya cool as flight ban ends
27 Jun 03  |  Africa


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