My generation in the UK grew up with the constant threat of Irish Republican terrorism.
Every trip to London, as a child in the 1980s, seemed marred by some kind of bomb threat or security scare.
Three years after Westgate, I remain horrified by the cowardice and inhumanity of this attack on innocent people enjoying a day out. My heart goes out again to all those who lost loved ones and to those still living with the injuries they suffered that day. The scars for many will take a long time to heal.
Westgate was an attack on all of us. We lost six British nationals there and we mourn them again on this anniversary.
That September I was based in London, as the person responsible for African affairs in our Foreign Ministry. Like many others in our government, I got into the office as soon as I could to help out: responding to calls from the public worried about loved ones, working with our high commission in Nairobi as it assisted British nationals caught up in the attack, and considering how we could best support the Kenyan authorities in their response.
But one decision required no debate: that the UK would support our ally Kenya. As the siege unfolded, our prime minister and Cabinet were closely involved and regularly briefed. British troops training in central Kenya supported the Kenyan Defence Forces with provision of emergency equipment.
This is what close friends do: stand with each other in their hour of need. But more than that, there was an understanding that terrorism is a threat to the things we share. We knew, then as now, that our security depends on each other’s, so we must face this threat together.
Terrorists attacked Westgate supposedly in retaliation for Kenya’s role fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia. This is a fight we share: one to root out extremism and build a better, more stable, and more prosperous future for millions of Somalis. It matters to the UK as it matters to Kenya.
Today I pay tribute again to the brave Kenyan forces taking the fight to al-Shabaab. The United Kingdom is deploying troops to Mogadishu, under the aegis of the United Nations, to support Amisom in its mission. We are leading the international effort to build Somalia’s national army, to which Kenya and its Amisom allies can hand over security.
Both our countries know too that terrorism is not simply an external phenomenon. We each face those who seek to radicalise our youth, luring them to a perverse ideology and egging them on to often stupid and suicidal acts. In both our countries, we must find ways to undermine and defeat those networks and show even the most disenchanted of our young compatriots that there are far better futures available.