It is a beautiful day. The sky above is clear blue with only a few scattered cirrus clouds. The afternoon air is a little bit dry, but that’s only normal in January in Nairobi. The marabou stork birds peacefully perched on the acacias along the Mombasa road, some of them are just standing beside the road in their black and white coats that’s now discolored, looking like zombies. You pass quickly for fear of one of those ugly birds feeling like relieving their bowels and dirtying your suit with their milky white droppings and messing up the rest of your day.
As you scurry along the well-cleaned pavements like one after a deadline, and cautious not to step on the “Kidero grass” – the hawk eyed, yellow-green uniformed kanjos are always watching – you notice people staring at you as if you’re half-naked. You twist your neck and turn back, rolling your eyes in an effort to double-check and be sure the damn birds didn’t shit on you, but you are fine and your clothes perfect.
So what is it?
Why the f*** are these Nairobians who are always pretending to mind their own business staring at you with angry eyes like they’re ready to unleash the unthinkable at a slight trigger. Have they never heard any one whistle in the city before? Some of us, you can never get the village out of us, even after living all our adult lives in the city.
Ignore and move on, but then you get to the next street and the first store you turn up to, notice people milled around it in somber moods and appalled faces with the ones at the rear balancing themselves on toes trying to have a better view at whatever the hell is going on. Of course you’re now curious, move closer, and after all you’re just another Nairobian (a typical Kenyan) and you wouldn’t miss whatever is going on at any cost. Take out your phone and put on the camera – the weapon of the helpless — ready for anything.
It’s the TV! The solemn crowd is watching a television with huge, red “BREAKING NEWS” words all over the screen.
What the hell is going on? You ask yourself, afraid to ask the angry-faced dude next to you. You can’t clearly see the headlines running below the Breaking News like a conveyor belt in the now dead — some say they still feel an impulse — Mumias Sugar Co., but you can clearly hear out the presenter.
“…14 Riverside in Westlands, Nairobi under attack.”
Oh, now you get why those people were staring at you while you were whistling like old Odongo back in the village after slightly shifting the sisals that separated our family land from his in his favor. They obviously couldn’t get how callous anyone could be, whistling in such high spirits with all the bad news in the city at the moment. But they should blame your ignorance. Anyway how could you have known?
The first thing that hits you the moment you learn of the attack is the atrocious Al shabaab. Who else can it be! And your first instinct is to shake yourself free and then take a good look around you just to ensure you’re in the right company. Sure you don’t want to end up blown in pieces and give your folks sleepless nights after viewing whatever remained of you for the last time during the obsequies. (You know we Africans view our dead no matter the shape their corpse are in). And isn’t that what we’ve always been told to do anyway since the onset of this war on terrorism, when the first militias set foot on our soil from Somalia? Be alert, try to know your environment before making a move.
You manage to pull yourself away from that crowd feeling so vulnerable and unsafe. The terrorists love crowds, so we’re told. And you don’t want to be another victim in their bloody statistics.
At the moment the government is still numb and dumbfounded as well, or they’re just not ready to admit that their military apparatus relaxed and got beaten by the Al shabaab again, and so they keep giving us “we’re still not sure of the identity of the attackers,” bullshit. And you can’t help but feel angry at the government. The police are still admiring their new uniform – if only they knew how ugly it looks – instead of doing their job which the poor tax payers pay them to do.
How could they be this lazy, not after losing so many students at Garissa University and Westgate Mall last time. What was the intelligence doing? Eating bribe money and nurturing kitambi (pot belly)? You just can’t help but ask yourself these questions. Questions you’re sure no one is going to answer them, not even the man at the top himself. Maybe he’s still swimming in the peace and tranquility that came with his “handshake” with his foe-turned-comrade, Raila Odinga.
Do we always have to be the ones reacting? If the intelligence organ was working their asses off we wouldn’t be having Dusit attack, would we?
But as you keep walking, almost in a trot, you can’t help but take part of the blame as well, as a citizen of this country. You haven’t been a good neighbor and a good citizen yourself, have to admit.
Later on as the details start coming out and it becomes common knowledge that the man who blew himself up at the entrance of Dusit D2 hotel and his comrades were indeed the militia group, Al shabaab, and the talk of how they’ve been living among us, smiling at us as they plan on how to murder our people makes you feel awful. Non of their neighbors bothered to alert the police, assuming any one of them noticed something fishy.
A man, for consecutive number of days keeps driving to Dusit Complex and doing nothing, just taking coffee and watching but no one, not even the security guards who now want to be armed with fire arms to be in a position to man the gate better and watch over property – whether it’s wise to arm “soldiers” with fire arms or not, is a topic for another day – dared enquire of the business of his frequent visits. It’s only after the devil’s agents have perpetrated their atrocious acts that everyone is now blubbering how they’ve been seeing this man “come and pack his car at the gate, go inside and later leaves”.
You’ll agree with me that as much as the country’s security and the government at large have let us down once again, we’re partly to blame. Me and you who keep saying “let me mind my own business,” while turning a blind eye to your new neighbor’s suspicious business. Very soon “their business” will be your business. Utajuwa haujui. Those poor people who lost their lives in Dusit, and many others who will never lead normal lives again are our very own people. They didn’t deserve that. Maybe they would still be here laughing with us if we had been vigilant.
As Kenyans, we need to change our attitude to win this war on Al shabaab. We should always remember that security starts with us. Something doesn’t feel right with your neighbor, is probably not right. Take action. Inform the authorities and let them check out just to be sure.
May all the victims of Dusit rest in peace, and may the authorities apprehend all those involved in their murder.