Yesterday Kenyans and Tanzanians marked ten years to the day the dastardly bombing of the American Embassies in these towns rocked our lives – and completely changed many lives.
But, even as we mourn our departed heroes, we ought to rectify ourselves on a number of issues.
Kenyans, we are very slow to learn some things and our leaders are equally “inept” when it comes to some things. They have not been providing the necessary leadership to help build us a bastion against a recrudescence of social ills that have been threatening to split us into two equal halves.
Even as you read this, the monster that we created by our sheer ignorance and ineptness in dealing with “our issues” head-on is wreaking havoc in this country – so much has gone up in smoke and we pretend not to know the reasons why.
Early this year we saw, experienced and tasted the flip side of our ignorance – the monster growled out loud and the country shook!
Hypocrisy reigns supreme in this country. The people we expect to light our path as a nation so that we don’t fall into pits (some of which we, sadly, helped create!) rarely rise to the occasion. Here I am talking about our politicians, our religious leaders, our schools (the teachers and the whole school system) and the media.
Most of the time, these groups of people and institutions fail to bring us together. They, instead, fight to drive wedges between us. We fail to see them guiding us to celebrate the beauty of unity and being one. Being our examples, we fail to see them working as one (remember, example is better than precept).
We fail to see them taking the opportunities that present themselves and turning them to gold – especially opportunities that would help foster nationhood.
What is the use of ranting about how different we are and laying our weaknesses (most of which are mere stereotypes) bare at the expense of national unity?
What has all this got to do with the Nairobi bomb blast ten years ago?
The answer is simple: the solidarity and empathy exhibited by Kenyans of all walks of life when the tragedy struck.
The story of one woman’s struggle for her life under the massive rubble is worth mentioning here. This is the story of Rose Wanjiku Mwangi – newspapers called her ‘A Candle in the Wind’.
She was buried under the rubble when the American Embassy and other buildings around it came tumbling down due to the impact of the bomb. She was alive for around four days under the rubble; and she was all the while communicating with the rescuers. This spurred them to work even harder in order to save her life.
Her voice fell silent on Sunday, August 9, 1998, but on the next day, Monday, the rescue was spurred on when tapping was heard from where she was thought to be buried.
The whole nation was hoping and praying that she would be rescued. Her determination to live – the massive rubble on top of her notwithstanding – touched many people.
No one asked what tribe Rose was or, even, from which part of Kenya she came from. If any one did, then it was for a different reason. A reason far from the one some people would have today asking the very same questions.
She died less than 24hours before her body was recovered at 0300 local time on the Wednesday of that week. Millions of people in Kenya and other countries around the world mourned her death and that of others who lost their lives during the American Embassy bombing.
Rose’s spirit to live against all the odds, encapsulates the spirit that we should have as a nation. A spirit to rise above our lot; a spirit to rise above ethnic differences; a spirit to celebrate nationhood (and not just mouth the fleshless “Najivunia kuwa Mkenya”).
This is a spirit that our leaders (political, religious and school leaders) and the fourth estate (the media) can help us realize. We are tired of just existing. Can we begin living as Kenyans?
We must stir the fighting spirit within us to life and fight on till we reach the acme we aspire. As bothers and sisters; as Kenyans, we can make it!