I lost 10 colleagues in 1998 bomb blast

Bomb blast survivor Oscar Ikinya

What you need to know:

  • Some of his colleagues who went to see what caused the first blast were not lucky. They came face to face with the second blast that was deafening and more devastating.
  • Mr Ikinya later got in touch with the bank and learnt that some of his colleagues were in the intensive care unit and that 10 others had died.
  • Mr Ikinya now stays at his home in Kikambala, Kilifi County, and farms moringa on his half acre piece of land.

On August 7, 1998, Oscar Ikinya was among five people from the Cooperative Merchant Bank who survived the terror attack on the American embassy.

The bank was domiciled at the ground floor of the Ufundi Cooperative Building in Nairobi.

There were about 15 staff in the office that morning.

“I was just three months into the job having been employed in May. I was 20 years old at that time. We were on a go- slow and there was nothing much happening in the office. The first explosion didn’t bother me that much. I was busy drafting a bank cheque.” Mr Ikinya says.

Some of his colleagues who went to see what caused the first blast were not lucky. They came face to face with the second blast that was deafening and more devastating.

“I didn’t hear anything at all. What I remember in those few seconds were wires, the smoke and confusion all around me. I found myself on the ground, I was in complete shock. It was all grey and dark. I thought I had slept at work and was trying to wake up to make sense of what had happened.”

BLOOD-SOAKED

Mr Ikinya says he saw a colleague who was on a desk making a call moments before the second blast.

“She was screaming. That’s when I realised we were in rubble. I was totally drenched in blood. My clothes were torn  and I had lost a shoe,” he says, adding a projectile struck his head as he staggered out of the rubble.

Bomb blast survivor Oscar Ikinya

Good Samaritans came to his rescue, took him to a private car and rushed him to Nairobi Hospital.

“I started regaining consciousness but was not aware of what had happened. While at the hospital I noticed there were many makeshift stations and that people were undergoing procedures. There was a lot of confusion at that time,” he recounts.

He says an x-ray was done and was followed by a surgery to remove a piece of wood from his head.

He was discharged after a day and took a matatu to Ngong where his parents stayed.

“I got home and found mourners crying thinking I was among the dead. My mother came and hugged me. It was a moment of mixed feelings from the family and friends,” he says.

NATURE’S THERAPY

Mr Ikinya later got in touch with the bank and learnt that some of his colleagues were in the intensive care unit and that 10 others had died.

“It was traumatising. One minute you are full of life and in a split second you are lifeless.”

He says the bank offered support but not the psychological kind.

“The memorials at August 7th Memorial Park have been more of a preserve of the US embassy and the Americans as Kenyans have not embraced them. I feel bad that nobody remembers and honours the 10 people,” he says.

He says he worked for about nine years after the blast until 2007 when he was laid off.

Mr Ikinya now stays at his home in Kikambala, Kilifi County, and farms moringa on his half acre piece of land.

“Farming has been therapeutic. The silence and the serenity in this environment has given me room to reflect on other things as I try to forget that fateful day,” Mr Ikinya.

 He hopes to venture into beekeeping, goat and rabbit rearing in the near future.