Kenya attack: ‘Selfless six’ mourned in Nairobi after siege

January 22, 2019 Foreign News

A memorial service has been held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for some of those killed during an attack by Islamist militants in a hotel and office complex a week ago.

Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay tribute to six men who were all employed by the same technology firm, Cellulant.

The company has praised their selflessness and bravery.

Somalia-based Islamist group al-Shabab said it carried out the attack.

Five militants, including a suicide bomber, stormed the luxury Dusit complex in the Westland’s district of the capital last Tuesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring dozens.

Elite police officers ended a 19-hour siege after killing all the attackers.

Cellulant, described as one of Africa’s most innovative start-ups in the world of financial technology, hailed its six employees killed in the attack as brave and selfless.

The company commended, Jeremiah Mbaria, Kelvin Gitonga, Ashford Kuria, Wilfred Kareithi, John Ndiritu, Denis Mwaniki for saving their colleagues while putting their lives at risk.

All of them were in the office when the attackers set off the first explosion on the compound at 15:00 local time (12:00 GMT)

Sensing trouble Mr Mbaria and Mr Kuria – who were leading a team meeting – started helping their colleagues to evacuate the office.

Mr Mwaniki joined them as they guided staff out of Cellulant’s office on the fifth and sixth floor of the building.

How the attack unfolded

The team managed to get 83 of the 100 colleagues out to safety through the emergency door, Cellulant said.

However, the militants noticed them and the remaining employees scattered in different directions.

More on the hotel siege:

Six sought refuge in a small room underneath the staircase on the first floor. The other 11 hid in two washrooms on the fifth floor.

But the armed men came to washrooms, spotted Mr Kuria and pulled him out and shot him dead, the company said.

The militants, who did not see the others hidden there, then made their way downstairs where six employees were hiding under the stairs.

Cellulant says they introduced themselves as al-Shabab militants before shooting five of them dead.

“One of our colleagues was miraculously unharmed. Jeremiah, Mike, John , Kelvin and Denis had shielded her into the back corner behind them, effectively removing her from sight,” the firm said.

Who were the Cellulant six?

Cellant described him as a leader, a brother and a mentor to many.

“He guided his team with humility and corrected with humour. He loved God and everyone he came across, and always challenged his team to grow.”

He had just taken up a leadership role after his manager left the company late last year.

“He took on the responsibilities of leadership very gracefully and lead by example, working late to help his team meet their deadlines,” Cellulant said.

Passionate about his job, Mr Gitonga believed “technology would change the world”, the firm said.

It described him as “an intelligent and versatile engineer” with a thirst for knowledge and learning.

He single-handedly overhauled the product’s user interface making it easier and more friendly to use, the company said.

Fondly remembered by those at Cellutant as “the ultimate geek”, Mr Kuria had worked on all the company’s major products, and was part of the team that built the technology that supports Cellutant services.

He was also described as the company’s “unofficial documentarian”.

“If you wanted a photo from any event in the past 10 years – Ash would have had it,” Cellutant’s tribute said.

“His knowledge of everything about everything was hilarious,” it added.

“[Ashford] will be remembered best for his big smile, warm personality, his kindness [and] love to everyone – and most importantly his tenacity.”

“Energetic” and “happy” was how Cellulant described Mr Kareithi, who started as an intern at the company but proved himself to be one of the best engineers.

He “never shied away” from taking on the most challenging of tasks, the firm said.

“He helped unconditionally, and always sought to mentor new staff members and share knowledge.”

He had been managing projects in Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Nigeria.

“Just because it is not my job, doesn’t mean I can’t do it,” Mr Ndiritu was known to tell colleagues at Cellulant in need of help.

As a quality assurance tester “he was always willing to go the extra mile to help when called upon”, the company said in a statement on Twitter.

“Jovial, calm and best-known for his humour”, is how they summed up his personality.

He was part of the team members that worked on a mobile banking app for Ecobank, one of the leading banks in Africa.

The team “delivered the app in 86 days, four platforms, four languages in 33 countries in Africa”, Cellulant said.

The information security expert was described by his employer as a “curious explorer, strategic thinker, a gentleman and exemplary leader”.

He was also one of the best IT security experts in Africa, the company said.

Cellulant secured coveted information security certification thanks to Mr Mwankiki’s “intellect”, the firm said, adding that he would be remembered as “a calm and humble spirit”.

His work enabled the company to get certified to operate in almost any market in the world.

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