Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Public editor: Tuesday’s Nairobi map unfairly suggested a terrorist community

Although the Somali terrorist militia group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Westgate mall attack, it is unfair to suggest a link to the Somali community Eastleigh.


The Globe's Africa correspondent Geoffrey York has been covering the terrorist attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall the past few days. With the standoff now over, the story will turn both to the tragic stories of those killed and injured but also more on who the terrorists are and the motivation of the Somali terrorist militia group al-Shabab.

His articles have been careful to explain the background of any religious divisions in the country. Yesterday, his article said: "The Westgate attackers, by targeting non-Muslims and deliberately killing those who could not prove they were Muslims, were clearly trying to provoke religious tensions in Kenya, driving a wedge between Christians and Muslims who have always lived side-by-side there. Most Kenyans are moderate, including most of the estimated 900,000 Somalis in the country, but the attackers appeared to be hoping to spark conflicts among religions and ethnicities… Ethnic tensions have already been rising in Kenya since 2011. Somalis have been blamed for terrorism, and the government has tried to evict thousands of Somali refugees from Nairobi – including the suburb of Eastleigh, known as 'Little Mogadishu' – ordering them to move to remote camps in the desert."

So, it was unfortunate that a small map included in Tuesday's newspaper file showed key areas in Nairobi including Westgate Mall, the airport, an industrial area and Eastleigh.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. York said it would be unfair to suggest there is a connection between the Somali neighbourhood and Westgate. It would be akin to showing an ethnic community in any city in the world and suggesting that there was a connection to a terrorist attack or criminal activity and that is not fair.

Acting Foreign Editor Susan Sachs said that map was published in error as it had been planned for a future story and a different map should have been published.

I agree with both that especially during times of such attacks and ethnic tensions, it is much more important to tread carefully and not make connections that aren't proven or even real.

If you would like to contact me about a journalistic issue, please do so at

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨