20 years on, Paradise Beach Hotel bombing survivors still seeking payouts

Paradise Hotel

A deserted Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi County which was attacked by suicide bombers 20 years ago, killing 15 people.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

As Kenyans today mark two decades since Al-Qaeda suicide bombers attacked Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala, Kilifi County, killing 15 people and injuring more than 80 others, victims are still chasing their compensation.

On November 28, 2002 a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the hotel as two others drove past the barrier and crashed into the reception area, setting off more bombs.

Survivors shared their stories and asked the government to speed up the process of compensating them.

Vincent Karisa, who was a gardener at the Israeli-owned hotel, said he was working when the bombs exploded.

Mr Karisa, his wife and his sister were all at the hotel that fateful day. His sister died in the explosions.

Mr Karisa is grateful to God, saying he was lucky to survive the attack.

"Memories of that day are still fresh in my mind. At around 5am, a green [Mitsubishi] Pajero that had gas cylinders loaded on both sides drove through inside the hotel. Two people were inside the car and they had their faces covered with arafat scarfs," Mr Karisa said.

The arafat scarf is a chequered black and white cloth usually worn around the neck or head.

Scaring him away

"The guard at the gate that day tried to stop the vehicle but one of the terrorists pointed a gun at him, scaring him away. One of them had explosives in his body. In the blink of an eye, a huge blast was heard. People started running around confused," Mr Karisa recalled.

He tried to find his wife, who worked as a room steward.

"I found her in a very bad state. An object had gone through her right thigh, leaving her with a hole. She bled profusely. She is still under medication, but I thank God we both came out alive," he said.

Ms Dama Karisa, another survivor, lost her husband when she was about to deliver.

"When the incident happened, I was nine months pregnant. I was left to take care of nine children. Everyone has turned a blind eye to me and my family, she said.

“I now work at a quarry to earn an income. I use the little money I earn to buy food and pay school fees for my children."

Survivors said the government has failed to fulfill its promises.

They said they were promised compensation but that has not happened.

People who lost their relatives each received Sh100,000, while the injured were given Sh50,000.

They were paid after the Kisauni MP at the time, Karisa Maitha, intervened on their behalf.

But they insist the fund was too little for the damages and losses they incurred.

"The owner of the hotel distanced himself [from the compensation issue]. He said he could not pay us because he also lost property," Ms Dama added.

Keep memories of her husband

Ms Mufida Mohamed recalled spending 21 days at a hospital as her husband recuperated in the Intensive Care Unit.

To keep memories of her husband fresh, she visits the hotel every year to plant a flower.

"My husband was driving a tour vehicle. That day, he had brought tourists to the hotel," Ms Mohamed said.

When the Nation visited the once elegant Paradise Beach Hotel which used to boast receiving more than 100,000 tourists a year, smelly greenish waters and a swimming pool full of trash stared at us.

The hotel was popular with Israelis, Germans, the French, Italians and other Europeans.

The Kenyans caught up in the attack were workers, while others were members of a troupe performing a welcoming dance for guests.

Managers used more than Sh300 million on renovations after the attack, but this did not bring back foreign tourists.

On the day of the attack, at 8.40am, other terrorists fired a missile at a jet belonging to Israel’s Arkia Airlines as it took off from Mombasa’s Moi International Airport. They missed their target and none of the 250 passengers and 10 crew members was harmed.

Paradise Beach Hotel sits on 20 acres, just 300 metres from the Indian Ocean.
Investigations by teams from the US, Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services revealed that preparations for the attack on the hotel had started a year earlier.