The scariest words I have ever heard came from a distant relative. It was moments after Kibaki had pulled that mother of comebacks, December 2007, sending the country to chaos. We were tucked in a small room, watching Kibaki swearing at dusk, totally benumbed at what had just happened.
Everyone in that house wanted war. People had voted for Raila overwhelmingly, and Raila had been leading for several hours before we learnt of the vote bank in Tharaka Nithi. We were red-eyed. As Kisiis, we could not punch anyone from a different tribe given we have a high number of our clansmen spread across the country. We had to be careful. Besides as Bantus, and businessmen at large, we dislike anything that upsets the business environment. So we were not ready to pick arrows and bows, though, we had to stop an attack from the North in the Borabu region.
There was this Luo man who ran a wielding shop nearby. A close family friend. He was with us. He could not stop speaking, totally overwhelmed at the chicanery that had been played on Raila. Then came the news that Kisiis were being beaten and killed in Kisumu and Kericho, their business being torched as well. Suddenly, we withdrew from him and became livid. Then the relative muttered those words that will forever be immortalized in my heart and mind,
“What is wrong with this Luo man, can’t he just shut up. Or should we go after his wife!”
Of course, he was reprimanded. He had the lowest level of education and I can assure he was not the brightest bulb in the room. But in that statement, I saw the strange and warped way in which the mind works. I had trouble connecting the dots from supposed rigged election to raping someone’s wife. As in the wife had nothing to do with the elections and the said rigging. Neither did the man. Only that, they almost became vessels for us to vent our misplaced anger. And I know, that is how more than thousand people lost their lives: for voting their preferred candidate and belonging to the politically ‘wrong’ tribe in a ‘wrong’ geographical area.
Now, I will not claim to be totally responsible and innocent. When we reported back to campus, I remember bumping into my best friend, a Kikuyu, who wanted my sympathies. To her horror, I uttered perhaps the most irresponsible words ever to come from my mouth. I told her that whatever happened was self-inflicted, and the Kikuyus who suffered should blame no one other than their powerful elite who had tampered with the elections. She went away crying, leaving me to reflect. She was horrified that a university student can speak such words.
To my defense, I was may be 20 years old, without a mind of my own and had been brainwashed by politicians. I would later reflect and regret every single words and wish I had never uttered them. With hindsight, I realised those who died were human just like me. Had dreams, families and when they went to vote, they did not know the outcome would seal their fate. It could have been me or you in some other circumstances. I have come to treasure every single life, regardless of its ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, race and anything that we use to classify humans. I believe we are all equal regardless of what politicians and rich white men think.
I know the life of a woman in Turkana is no less important than that of a woman enjoying a pizza in Galitos. That the beggar in the street is much my responsibility as that of the government and his or her kith and kin. I now judge people individually, not collectively. I have great Kikuyu friends and I have Luo friends. Not all my Kisii friends are as reliable as my friends from other tribes. Hell, there are even some relatives I can’t stand for more than 5 minutes.
The aim of this blog is simple. Three years ago, I was at the bus station, lining up to board a Double M on my way to Umoja where I used to say. Around the time, al-Shabab was bombing matatus randomly killing a one or two people routinely. On the specific day, they had bombed OTC, which is a couple of metres down from the bus station. We had heard the blast or read it on Twitter while in the winding queue.
We were palpably apprehensive. The the police came and cleared us from bus station, so that the more than 1,000 people had to find alternative means to their home-it was around 8.30 p.m going to 9.
As we hurried from the bus station, some man said,
“Na hawa watu, wanadhani hatuezi enda Eastleigh hata sisi tuwauwe!” the man in a suit said, clearly exasperated.
“Tuende hata saa hii!” another one said, more angered.
It sent a cold chill down my spine. At that time, if the al-Shabab threw another grenade, the two men would have willingly sacrificed to go to Eastleigh and murder any person who looked Cushitic.
And that is the danger with latest terrorism dilemma in the country. Those familiar with Central African Republic know the Christian-Muslim war that has rocked the country ever since Bozize was ousted from power. In a country that is predominantly Christian, our patience can only be stretched to a certain limit, before people take matters unto their hands.
That is why I am thankful that the usually quiet and ambivalent North Eastern Province leaders have come to speak against and condemn the Garissa attack. Their new assertion that they will smoke out the al-Shabab financiers and sympathisers is laudable. I particularly respect the sobriety displayed by former deputy-speaker Farah Maalim. He is man whose counsel is worth seeking.
Without NEP leaders as well as the entire Somali and the Cushitic brothers condemning the attack, they risk being lumped together by ignorant non-Muslims who might feel they support them indirectly. Already, there are a section of Kenyans ho are convinced that Islam is a violent religion and collective punishment should be meted on them in the communities. Thankfully, we have a sober government and citizenry who are bidding their time. When Muslims openly speak against al-Shabab, it enables us to look at al-Shabab as criminal gang, no different from Mungiki or other militia groups that often kill, rape and maim innocent people.
But I hope, KDF will reexamine its objectives in Kisimayu. The allegations that they are up to mischief do not augur well with the prevailing mood in the country. Pulling out might be an act of cowardice, ill-advised, given they were busy bombing and kidnapping our people and tourists before we went there, there is no guarantee that they will stop shooting innocent people. But we need to find a way of reducing the death toll from their brutal and unsparing guns.
A more honest KDF, police force and government might be a good start. If in deed there are elements within the government that seek to profiteer from the war, trust me, you can amass all the wealth in the world, but rarely will you have time, the good health to enjoy it. Either way, we all pay for our sins in this world. You can make all the money, but you are cursed by the tears of that parent who lost his or her child. You are doomed by the pain of the children who senselessly lost their parent. And your self or your kin, often perishes the same way.
If you were sent to protect the country, let that be the chief mission. Overall, as Kenyans we must from now raise our voices where injustices and inequality exist. We need to make everyone feel a part of the country. We need to clamour for fresh, clean elections which gives the president, not just the votes, but the authority, the credibility and legitimacy that can guarantee the collective him our full support. Not fractious as it is now. Not one half the country feeling cheated and always ambivalent in their support of the president.
Equally, we must stop ‘othering’ others. The empathy extended to the Westgate attack is incomparable to the subsequent attacks-to wit; the Mandela bus and Mine attack, Baragoi massacre and Mpeketoni. Hitherto, these attacks seem very far, removed from us. Yet, these terrorist are indiscriminate. We moved on pretty fast after the Garissa attack. No demonstration or highly publicised fundraisings. blood donations and such things. We can do more than hashtags by calling the government to account on its response to terror and the consistent inability to act on intelligence. Every other time, they seem to strike al-Shabab camps as soon as al-Shabab have struck and left blood following. We need them to do it before. Furthermore, it is time schools, neighbourhoods, universities, shopping malls were permanently safeguarded by well trained and equipped police. We cannot risk losing one more life to terrorism.
Finally, for now, Uhuru Kenyatta is our president. We have to support him and trust that he has the wise counsel to guide him through these tumultuous times. Opposing him merely because you think he did not win elections legitimately, for now serves no purpose. Let us support him and his efforts as he starts his third year. In two years, we can elect him out. In the hope that the elections will not be muddled by any scandal.