He woke up with a woman beside him, in his hands, smiling in her sleep. He watched her sleep for a while then went to the kitchen to make his queen happier: nothing beats some homemade toasties and coffee in bed! Later, they left for shopping and a quick stop at their favorite eatery.
He woke up mad from yesterday’s heated exchange about some little house decision that had to be made and she would not talk to him. He wrote her a note, “I will be back” and went to meet his friend at Westgate…
She had promised the kids to take them out because they had been exceptionally good that week. The house helps knew what to do. Mum and kids left for the Sungold Sunrice Superchief: together, as a team they were going to have fun and celebrate a week well lived: the last!
She woke up way before dawn. She had a family to take care of and a career to run. She made breakfast and lunch and did everything she could to make her family’s life easier. Her husband was proud of her and so were her kids…then she said goodbye: the last.
Saturday 21st September 2013.
One part of the world was in a buzzle while the other part of the world slept. Kenya woke up as usual, with people who believe on the joys of social indulgence going around their different agendas of the day: for rugby lovers, it was the 7’s for the rest, it was different joints and entrees among them Westgate: people going around shopping, holding meetings with their friends…the day was another Saturday for another Kenyan. Well, until…..
Gunshots, terror and fear happened. Shock was visibly tangible from the veins of the adults trying to get a glimpse of what was happening and failing miserably. No one knew the impact of what we were facing (except the foreign NSIS who, coincidentally had warned Kenyans about the attack but Kenyans, as usual, took ignorance to be bliss and ignored the warnings). Panic run through the veins of the nation: a nation under siege. For four days, Kenya had a taste of life in Iraq, Syria and Somalia albeit a small dose of it.
The screams, the gunshots and the sight of too many defense units congregate in a single location sent frantic responses as Kenya came face to face with a terrible terror attack. Speculations and demented conspiracy theories made round both in the physical and virtual environments; each environment feeding the other with theories too farfetched for an assault just launched. The Kenyan media, in it bigotry, competing to become the first to get the gory of the story out, unethically covering the story in poor grammar, and uncompetitive phonology and compromising both the hostages and the rescue mission. Everybody with enough common sense knows that you don’t give information about hostage hideouts or defense operations as this may compromise both and create more deaths than necessary. Obviously, commonsense is too expensive for some of us to afford and anyway commonsense and the Kenyan media cannot be used in the same sentence. This incident left many wondering by what criteria and professional ethics this people are employed and who gives them audience during their interviews: if they are interviewed. Generally, it seems that the only way to get a media job in Kenya is to be of exceptional beauty, have screaming booty assets and have the ability to dress in clothes three sizes smaller. Professionalism ranks a low ten.
Well, by Sunday, we had no progress. As usual, resilient Kenyans had grown out of shock and individually, in a spirit of collectiveness, each was looking for a way to help the hostages the defense forces overcome the situation and defeat the terror suspects or maybe they were trying to get busy amid the tension. Redcross was heading the team of volunteers to handle the rescued hostages. The wider Kenyan society pooled together to give essential material support such as money, blankets, water and food and vital services such as psychological support, counseling, consolation and love. Like we always do in times of disaster, ethnic, tribal, racial and religious differences were shelved and the #WeAreOne movement was born. This movement pulled together a togetherness that had not been experienced before; the Kenyan flag painted most social media platforms as individual Kenyans creatively used the Kenyan colors to color their avatars. And the international community felt it too: the Kenyan spirit, they called it. The world took up the movement while Kenyans in the Diaspora, desperate to reach out to us, came up with creative measures to feel closer home holding vigils and memorials and engaging their fellow brethrens on virtual platforms. The support was overwhelming and the importance of “the green city under the sun” reverberated worldwide through blogs, tweets, virtual newspapers, short stories, photography, graphics among others…all this time, the hospitals kept busy working round the clock to save a few lives if not all: life is precious you know?
The al shabaab (kebabs to Kenyans) felt the heat of pressure. Video footages were released warning Kenyans to stay off. One depicted the first few minutes: fear, shock, screams, rage and hot rush as parents rushed in frantic efforts to save the lives of their kids; theirs forgotten. Self preservation is important you know?
The women cooking tea and food for the defense, the medical personnel, the volunteering staff with redcross tags and all the other outfits working under redcross to ensure a smooth rescue mission and the entire Kenyan community who took up faith and hope as weapons to maintain sanity by praying to whichever deity you believed in: I SALUTE YOU. To the rest of the world who gave Kenya support at our darkest hour of need: THANKYOU but to them still wondering whether we have malls: No, we still shop at the great Mau forest for wild grapes and stream fish. We stood together, held on to hope and faith and believed in our defense.
At the end Kenya won but hard questions persist. Why do we have an intelligence unit? What happened to the intelligence information shared to us by the US intelligence? The weaponry used, up to what level of command in the famous KDF and police militia was bribed? The attackers were very familiar with the architecture of the building: for how long had they spied on it, what tactics did they use, how long did it take for them to stock? Who were they and what did they want?….among others and No, we are not getting answers any soon, if ever, because we have a government that believes we are too immature to hold information; the less we know the better. They think that ignorance and misinformation will make us better citizens forgetting that an informed nation is in itself a weapon of defense. And Kenyans? We are the worst group in the lot of deflated objects. We seem to believe that not questioning our leaders will equate to loyalty. Sad news, that is not true. It’s the worst fallacy ever invented by history. Questioning our ruling regime would make us better citizens. The world respects us for our resiliency, our non confirmatory spirit, our ability to defend our own and our status as the most elite country in east and central Africa. We should add to that another variable: the country that holds its leaders to accountability. That is the only way we will ever get past this line that we so love and which does more damage than any other phrase in any human language: accept and move on. That is the only way we will foster a true Kenyan spirit that is not fueled by disaster or “defending our own”, it’s the only way to foster true national cohesion because information is power that breaks the biggest barriers though simple methods such as a small signature on a cramped piece of paper.