Muniini K. Mulera
Today we are all Kenyans
Posted Monday, September 23 2013 at 01:00
The evil that was visited upon innocent humans who were doing what normal people do at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall this weekend reminds us of the ever-present forces of darkness in our midst.
To paraphrase the Book of Job 2:1-2, on Saturday September 21, the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before Him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it and causing mayhem in Nairobi.”
Nothing else explains why men and women picked up weapons to kill unarmed humans. 39 dead as I write this, with perhaps more about to be robbed of their precious lives by strangers with even stranger beliefs. One moment one is laughing or loving or joking or shopping or just being. The next moment one is bleeding or fleeing or breathing her last.
The dead could have just as easily been you or me, Tingasiga. Among the memorable moments of our last visit to Nairobi were the hours that my wife and I spent with Kenyan friends exploring the bookstores and other cultural offerings in the Westgate Mall. A beautiful, airy shopping centre that offered the visitor a taste of upscale living in Nairobi, Westgate was a wonderful respite from the optic challenges of driving through the nearby slums and other overcrowded neighbourhoods.
Terrorists do not give advance notice of their evil deeds. Therefore it is only by God’s grace that we are not among the dead or injured.
Though we live and thank God that we were not at Westgate at the fateful moment this weekend, the anguish that consumes the civilised world is part of the terror that this lot enjoy to watch as they celebrate their latest assault on us.
Each time they strike, they change our way of life, their one big achievement since September 11, 2001. We are forced to take off our shoes at airport security points. We watch complete strangers rummage through our personal belongings before we are allowed to enter public buildings in Kampala, for example.
Loss of our freedom and privacy and a myriad other inconveniences are part of the cost we have paid in the hope of staying safe from the terrorists. It is a small price to pay, of course, and most of us have become accustomed to it.
The greater price, however, is that of fear. No doubt the residents of Nairobi and other East African cities will feel very reluctant to venture into shopping malls and other public facilities. That is a very understandable natural reaction.
However, if there is one lesson we have learnt here in North America, it is that when we succumb to such fear we cede ground to terrorists. Fear is their weapon. Fear is our prison. Fear is lost freedom. Fear is their triumph. As US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural speech in 1933, “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
The citizens of America, Canada, Britain, Spain and Uganda, to name a few recent scenes of massive terrorist acts or attempts, have refused to give in to the fear that would have paralysed their lives.
The residents of New York City and Washington DC resumed their public pursuit of happiness within days of the massive attacks in those cities 12 years ago.
My wife and I were happy to ride on London’s underground trains barely two weeks after the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings. A thwarted massive attack on Toronto’s subway trains in 2006 was greeted with defiance by citizens who continued to ride the system as their way of fighting back. A similar plot to attack VIA Rail, Canada’s main railway line, early this year did not deter Canadians from using the system.
The terrorist attacks on Kampala that killed more than 70 Ugandans on July 11, 2010 did not deter the citizens from assembling in public venues for entertainment, worship and other activities.
So while we understand the fear that many Kenyans must feel at this time, their best defense against the latest attack on their capital city will be to continue to live their normal lives as they did after the 1998 bombings.
The best response for Nairobians will be to patronise the shops at Westgate Mall in greater numbers than before. That Mall will definitely be on our list of places to visit when my wife and I make our annual pilgrimage to Kenya early next year.
Until then, we send our heartfelt condolences to President Uhuru Kenyatta and others who lost their relatives in the senseless attacks at Westgate Mall. We stand in solidarity with the people of Kenya, whose loss is our loss, whose pain is our pain, whose struggle is our struggle. Today we are all Kenyans, facing the forces at the heart of darkness that threaten our civilisation.
Dr Mulera is a Daily Monitor columnist based in Canada.