Saturday, April 4, 2015

Garissa, Kenya: the troubled terrain that reminds us of corrupted power denying truth

We all want an easier life. We played April Fools and forgot that terrorists love to attack during holidays when everyone is looking to the next drink. These attacks are predictable.

The circular dated March 25, the attack on April 2, 2015
I mourn but we point out hard truths. I mourn that way. Terrorists do not mourn. We mourn. They celebrate deaths - and if true all of them are convinced, a certain rewarding of their horror - in a questionable life after. 

They have that kind of power and want you to close your eyes because of deaths. No don't. Open them wider. This is not where they want you, staring back. So do that.

The initial figure of deaths at the hands of gunmen in Garissa reveals 147 people dead. That includes two gate guards, the attackers too and a couple of service men. 

Some of the people present said were it not for the police they would have wanted to burn the remains of the killed attackers. 

One can understand their anger but the road we travel does not allow for that kind of vengeance.  Give others who like to wish deaths away, time to face it, stare at death. That is what innocent relatives and friends have to do this Easter. Terrorists with such thoughts come to bloom in senseless killings. Let me say from the onset, I heard and saw this attitude towards killings in other militias all over the world, and in Kenya specifically. Killing is fulfilled as if it is a vocation, a call to follow in one's life.

Don't try to erase it. Face it. Terrorists blow themselves up, it is said one did in the attack but not documented for in death, they too are cowards. Are we facing it or hiding other things in this?

They are dead, these killers, some insisted, no problem, burn them. 
But radicalisation that led to this started there... There is enough fundamentalism also among Christians, and quite some stoking of it from the USA fundamentalist preachers and many of them praising power to get there.

Or ''Lord! Do it again!'', one wrote on Facebook, "Send back those plagues and wipe them clean ... like the ones you sent to Egypt, Lord!" In that thinking the thieves at the cross, Judas and betrayal, the washing of feet have disappeared, of Muslim if there are any religious feet, or any feet, for today is not yesterday. The Gospel is alien. Terror. As if this in itself is not a plague enough and as if the rain will fail where there is radicalism. It will rain for all. So take out a clean sickle. Cut the fences around us.

The less we tolerate the search for justice in the Kenya nation the more distant we are from non-violence. Every abuse should be met with truth and justice.  No one should take the law into their own hands. Not the president of the nation, not the people. There was a time many lives were lost in Nairobi going down with 'mob justice' as it was called which was simply injustice. Getting used to taking lives is not a cure. Blaming others but moving away from our own failures will not lead to growth. 

I note that Uhuru Kenyatta is not able to cope with the whole picture, roots, branches and the birds that fly from nests and those that perch. Denying a historical fact for instance... that the North of Kenya and that means mainly Muslims have not been victimised since colonial times.

This kind of apologetics for sins of history is what I thought may never help Kenya. Especially when followed by Ei and/or Mea culpas without substance. His background does not allow him to admit certain obvious facts. Are we to close our eyes to history? Why does he say such things at this time? Many people have found them lose talk. We don't need that. Not now, not before, not ever.

Sadly as deaths shock us, touch the world, some people are served by a blind spot that occurs for past evils committed. Retaliation no, but consistent answers yes. As long as we can say it is you, radicalised Imams, as Uhuru Kenyatta has said, everything else might fall out of perspective. We too have radicalised Kenyans in our homes through our politics. It is not all about and only radicalisation in 'rogue mosques, homes and Imams'.

No. Sorry. Deaths should jolt us into recalling our failures to prevent them and of our often casual approach to their occurring in extra-judicial ways. There is much to be examined in Kenya. And lethargy in matters of life and death must be shunned. Matters of justice.
Lose talk about The Hague and a well orchestrated campaign
against justice. Everything is funny until now?

 Two weeks ago, a plain circular was on the Internet, on Facebook to be precise. I came across it as I plowed through the newsfeed. I spent time scrutinising it and wondering. Actually felt derailed from what I was reading before. This. Detailed. Shabaab were aiming at attacking soon. The impending attack was most likely going to be on an institute of higher learning, a university. This notice then was on the University of Nairobi.

This circular warning on an impending attack was posted at the University of Nairobi and at the United States International University, USIU, but not at Garissa. This is first place that should have come to mind upon recieving such Intelligence. The media too did not cover it and it was only discussed after the Garissa attack. Discussed? Maybe more disowned by some.

I thought about the horror that could hit Kenya when I read it. We have seen terror attacks increase dramatically. The undying spirit of destruction always hiding in divisions and now this they try to say is between two religions in Kenya. An Al Shabaab lie that the Pope might buy. No religions are at loggerheads in Kenya. Islam is growing fastest everywhere. 

They all grow at a different rate, wax and wane, and everybody who wants to know can find out which one is growing where and how fast. Christianity is not growing in fast in Garissa at the University which was attacked. In all places Christians meet for prayers and they as a gathering are as vulnerable to attack as any other.

In my view these are smokescreens which leave people in more tension than ever. I hope that Kenya and other populations will not begin something Europe is doing in some areas. Standing up against a confession of faith, a faith that is misused like all have been, by criminals. Europe should know that. I mean the part of Europe that is ganging up against Islam. It is not logical. And in terror nothing is ever reason based. Is not the better strategy to hold onto reason which might face off with terrorist's way of thinking.

I somehow imagined that everyone would be seeing this information on all campuses and taking the necessary precautions. By everyone, I did not think of the police, or other security agents. I thought they must have known this for it to be moving around and taken the necessary precautions. It turns out that even if police and the Armed forces swiftly moved in to the defence of the university, they had to be called in. Police had to ask for a reinforcement.

But Garissa is not alien to terror. Just three days to the attack two persons at Durdur Hotel in Garissa County. They were shot dead in a hotel. Nobody, police declared came forward to ask for their bodies. A photo is published of the wives of one of the ones who were killed. A two-year-old in her hands, she looks frustrated and tortured. Where is her husband?

"On Thursday, two people are said to have been shot dead in hotel and their bodies carried away by the killers. Another two were abducted and taken to an unknown destination."

Only a few years ago, I worked on empowerment workshops in Garissa. I spoke to men and women. I noted it was becoming easier to travel there by bus. Garissa was not as far as some people thought. It was so close to Garissa Lodge in Eastleigh. There was a bustling economy, Islamic banking. Businesses were flourishing. I was received with deep respect and nobody ever questioned my teachings or dress code. I was so at home there that somebody suggested I should buy a herd of cattle and learn how to farm. 

What I noticed as I travelled in a private car back once and stopped saw how the group in the car stopped for peaceful prayers in Mosques was the discrimination of the Somali of Kenya. For indeed the police would lean into the car and ask everyone except me for an identity card. The people would run into the bushes with them to pay something, I bet, to continue traveling. It hurt and we spoke about it. It was definitely leading a community to the edge. And this years after independence in 1963. Years after colonial times when the British decided on the Northern Frontier District which was kept tethered with hunger and lack of opportunities. 

Noticeable too was the longing of the people to show similarities rather than differences. I remember how the car occupants pointed out how related we all were. Religion did not come into the conversation. They begged me for the time for a short break and I agreed. I was even welcomed into a Mosque. Then there were hopes that the road to Wajir would be fully tarmacked.

That there would be greater growth and peace. Then I walked in Garissa without fear. Then I found a church open to all. And nobody was looking around in fear. 

During one of my many visits an Imam who was coming to give our group a lecture on just how Female Genital Mutilation is not based on the Quran died in a car accident just before he entered the town. I saw how Raila arrived there in a few minutes after being notified of the Imam's death. Well he had to be buried in hours. That is the tradition. Raila as ODM, was there in a chopper to bid him farewell. The people gathered in his meeting were very congenial with him. He was still known as an atheist then. I heard nothing about religions. I heard something else, they wondered where Uhuru Kenyatta was not with them. True that did not happen and this is the past of PNU.

In 2013, however, I saw a journalist working for an international channel about Garissa and Wajir.... He reported about his home town in tears. Did Uhuru Kenyatta miss this or did he think it was another prank by the international community do bad mouth Kenya? 


There is no mystery here. Radicalisation cannot be excused but it has to be understood as some form of going away from a reality too hard to bear. So I will not mourn for the 147 without in part pointing at truths. For they will never know, or may never have known that another Garissa is possible, was possible and will be possible. My mourning is to point out that radicalisation is not in Mosques only. Why, we have had militias and people of discontent all the time in a Kenya where resources are stolen all the way to the votes!

Radicalisation is fitting too for local militias some of these politicians worked with before, something so denied now. They feared not death and they killed. They helped to encourage terror in Kenya. To show Al Shabaab indeed what one does when they are deprived of power or what one should do to get to the top. Kill. Avoid justice. Shed crocodile tears and as fast as possible, get the whole nation saying, it is time to unite and to forget past errors. Forgetting past errors includes making every part of Kenya, Kenya. This is practical. 

Answers ?

Get visitors of value. Obama is coming. Omar al Bashir was in Nairobi too in 2010 to enthrone the new Constitution. He was already an indictee of the ICC. He still is. Does it matter? All the flags will flap power in the wind. I will never accept that people implicated in a crime against humanity have any moral authority to mourn with us, to fly flags at half - mast and to cry with a nation they long ago betrayed. I still say a better time would have come if you had waited and gone through this process to its logical end. When moral authority is lost nothing works. Now, everyday I hear power was a must, it was for the protection of this or the other, of these people versus others, and all those things, alien to national cohesion. Corruption was protected?

I once posted on Facebook that no bomb, not the 1998 on the American Embassy which claimed about 200 persons and this attack which is the worst since then with 147 killed and many missing, surpass the 1 333 Kenyans who died in days when Kenya experienced pose election violence that gripped Kenya in 2007/2008. Violence. 

This violence has escaped justice. It seems that those charged or accused were always innocent. Even when the Prosecutor of the Hague says that she was not able to secure some crucial information from Uhuru Kenyatta, she seems to be saying there was none. So Kenya is spruced up. The people at the top are happy. 

Money has been offered to the victims affected by the violence. Ten billion Kenya Shillings. An apology has been issued. Those who were mentioned repeatedly in this case, including Uhuru Kenyatta are so innocent that they have no idea of who then could be witnesses of this case. The justice minister who called this a crime against humanity died in unexplained circumstances.

The thing is our tears of yesterday are suppose to dry fast. No, they join the river Tana's, all the way to the Indian Ocean. This is the best mourning for current deaths at Garissa. 

 At the time of the violence Kenya visited on herself, many of us said that we will never manage to hold up our decency again. That we had shown our neighbours how easily we break one another for power. 

Since then in January, February and March, many lives have been lost, so many. This Garissa April loss is not a wake-up call. We should never have slept. The whole saga of the disappearance and finding of, as well as confusion of the body of man called Yebei, no matter what side he was on was so bizzare. Human rights activists such as Ken Wafula are intimidated. Our country... did somebody plan the disappearance of the look alike of Yebei... for weeks there were two families claiming the same man. 

Yebei was never suppose to be found.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Forgive me, families and friends, but understand me please, the mourning of a government that allows killings refuses to hit me where it should. I mourn recalling all like this. 
What happened to George Saitoti? He was the minister of Internal Security who died along with Ojode, an MP and all the crew of a chopper a day after he had warned Kenyan politicians not to run to militias again in order to upset the country and win an election in 2013.

He may have had other faults. But why was he scared to sleep in Room 213 in the hotel in Mombasa just before this accident? Is it true that he was treading on the toes of politically correct drug dealers? This type of corruption that dares work with militias to gain power is not going to strengthen Kenya against terror. The USA will not. Kenya has to cut and make its own...

But again the 'saviour' will come from the West... which Uhuru Kenyatta blasted several times particularly on justice and the Hague court.

I know Obama is praising Kenyans for "resilience"
 and "decency' but honestly, Obama, we are the ones who have opened our country to cheap ways. We are not new to radicalisation. We also have internal militias who kill and killed without Obama or Uhuru raising a voice on the matter. At this stage we are not going to be helped by platitudes. We have to be left alone to choose our attitudes and to change. We know we can. 

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