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Friday, August 08, 2008

The Nairobi Bomb Blast Ten Years On: A Subtle Lesson

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!

32 comments:

Hakujakucha said...

it was sad... the events ten years ago.

Hakujakucha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hakujakucha said...

you said '... recrudescence of social ills that have been threatening to split us into two equal halves'

There are no two equal halves... there are just stupid Kenyans on one side, and powerful corrupt thieves on the other side. The forces of evil are represented by the ever scheming duly elected president, Kalooser and Mr Molasses.

just wanted to add that it is we idiots who have given the evil doers their powers with our stupid blind votes!

Shaddy said...

Ritch,

That's a moving reminder of that tragic day. The death that visited our shores on that August day was a classic case of when bulls fight, the grass suffers. As much as we have to be on the alert so that a repeat of such mayhem is avoided, it would be the best gift to Rose if we can ensure that our own bulls are not allowed to fight where grass is.

Sam Okello

Hakujakucha said...

To dare 'live', to even attempt making the first hesitant step requires inspiration. It requires someone to inspire us. Some one not tainted by the sick culture that we proudly call Kenyan. Someone who will galvanize us into saying enough is enough. Someone who will cause the thief in State House to tremble. And all the highly placed thieving officials who bind us down to shake with fear.

We will need an Obama. Someday I believe such a leader will come. A leader who will say the government must serve the people - NOT thieves. A leader who will join the masses as they bring corrupt traffic cops to book. A leader who will help in the tracing and recovery of the lost billions safely statched abroad by Kenya's mafia.

That day will come my friends. When Kibaki, Kalooser and Mollases will be no more. When Kikuyus and Luos will vote with their brains instead of listening to what their earthly 'gods' order them to do.

That day will be in another century!

Anonymous said...

Sam Okello,
I am interested in writing my MA Thesis on your books. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of them. Could you kindly reach me at neverfnorf@ya hoo.com so we can come to some arrangement?

Regards

Maks

b-carotene said...

Yes we can learn, if only we tried.
Thanks very much Ritch.

Vikii said...

Ritchie, thumbs up!. As refreshing as ever.

Hakujakucha, I agree with most of what you say. The scheming duly elected President, Kalooser or Mr. Molasses should not be allowed to think for us. I have talked of robots within Kenyan political masses because that is precisely what they are. When they are told, from today onwards, we should start liking so and so they heed. When they are told so and so is our enemy from today, they heed. When they are told such and such a community is responsible for all the poverty, ignorance, disease and misery in their shores, they swallow that crap as well. They are called robots and it is unfortunate there so many robotic Kenyans.

Anyway, we were united in that moment of grief, just like we are united in Beijing. Occassional unity is better than nothing, am'vipi?

Sam, can I also get a copy or two? Na si eti mii hupenda za bwerere sana.

Anonymous said...

GOOD NEWS!! VERY GOOD NEWS KUMEKUCHANS!!

Ivy and Knoppix are an item.

They met here in KK and now the love is blossoming. They are so much in love, I heard they are going to get married soon and Chris will officiate the wedding.

Funny, people meet in all sorts of places.

Wish them well!

Anonymous said...

Who is this trying so hard to match-make ivy and knoppix?

b-carotene said...

@11:12
Look, like you am thrilled at the good news. That's it. No need to keep harping about it, boring, and even might just jinx it.

UrXlnc said...

Ritch,

well said. it would be nice in the future to be able to point at some change in the hitherto inept immigration fiasco (porous borders, corrupt officials etc) and state with confidence that our borders and country are safe from such attacks, but sadly this may take a while

Vikii said...

"It requires someone to inspire us. Some one not tainted by the sick culture that we proudly call Kenyan. Someone who will galvanize us into saying enough is enough. Someone who will cause the thief in State House to tremble."

I though Jim Orengo was that leader and I said just as much in this very blog. That was before he enrolled into the culture of hooliganism, deceit and corruption. I guess when people turn 60, their priorities change.

We can now try Gitobu Imanyara or wait for those that aren't born yet.

Anonymous said...

Vikii, you are over 60, has your priorties changed?

Shaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I may sound cold but if we want to have the same unity we had 10 years ago now, a person will do not, a tragedy will. I bet u right now if an earthquake hits our big city, we will quickly forget our tribes. Maybe, just maybe that is what we may need.

Anonymous said...

Sam Okello, where is Chris???

UrXlnc said...

hakujajucha, vikii

i totally understand the frustration when we look at some of the leadership, their reputation or abilities. but we however must look at all these from a point of maturity i.e we know, none is perfect, today or in the future, ourselves included. looking for such a person will just add to our growing list of disappointments.

its no different than in the way we look at e.g policemen. for most part kenyans do not like or would rather avoid interacting with policemen and we know that a few of these guys are just thugs-in-uniform, but when a thief comes knocking, you put aside your misgivings and call the police.

what we need is a clear understanding of where we have come from, where we are today, and where it is that we want to go tomorrow.

lets do our part day to day, and when it comes to choosing the leaders lets elect those that will move us in the general direction where we want to go.

we then need explain to each other why we think our "chosen ones" would do better than those "other guys over there" and then leave each to do as they very well please. and then respect the decisions arrived at. lets go one step further and ensure that the decision processes are free from corrupt manipulation and everyone will be happy, some disappointed, some happy, but the decision will be deemed fair.

and above all lets be fully awake to the fact that even some of our own best thought reasons can be superseded by other more appropriate or more impacting criteria from the other camp.

after all, no one has a monopoly of ideas, i think this is the primary reason we (at least thats why i'm here) blog here, to understand the different perspectives, n'est ce pas?

Vikii said...

Urxlnc, I agree.

We all love democratic elections even though we know that democratic elections are rarely won by democrats. I am for an electoral process that produces the true will of the people. If the people elect Mobutu as their President, then it is Mobutu they should get.

We had a chaotic election last year, Urxlnc. Everybody agrees so many things went wrong. Or at least not everything was done to preserve the appearance of integrity in the whole process. What I refuse to agree with, Urxlnc, and I have every reason not to, is the view that the Press and the international community like to advance that individual X won the election. My question has always been, given the closeness of the election (and each camp claims to have won so narrowly), how did they come to their conclusion?

I am not here to defend the Electoral Commission. The chairman and his team failed to live up to expectations. And the flack they got was completely legitimate. But reason has to prevail. We have to stop the mob culture we so much cherish. We used the same exact mob psychology to intimidate the President to renew the chairman's term. How we turn around now and call the latter the former's puppet/cronny beats any logic. It is just strange.

I have examined ODM's petition very closely. I have looked at their report on the elections.Believe you me I have a clearer picture of what the ODM's official position on the "rigged" poll was than 90% of their members. When you go to www.raila07.com and you download their report, they acknowledge that they lost Eastern, Central and North Eastern to team Kibaki. They dont claim to have lost Nairobi because as far as they are concerned five out of the eight constituencies in Nairobi are disputable. Your guess is as good as mine about who won Makadara, Starehe, Kasarani and Kamukunji. My point, urxlnc, is this: The fact that something has been repeated so many times doesnt mean it is true (the 6 agains 2 nonsense). Last year's was a split election. Down the middle. Nobody can claim to know who really won that election. So people can say all they want but the facts speak a diferent language. And they will not change. Now listen to pundits talk about that election and you will think there was a clear winner. It is as though the election was one sided.

About whether people have a right to see things differently, of course they do. That is the whole essence of democracy. But it is an undeniable fact that so many people trust the politicians a little too much. We are a bit too trusting (Of course with a varrying degree across the different political parties) and there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing that out. You will be suprised to know that there are people who can shoot themselves if asked to do so by their political leaders. Is that healthy? Hell No. That is outright stupid.

All I did in the other comment was to agree with Hakujakucha, that "the duly elected President" has proven to be an under-achieving President. "Kalooser" on the other hand is definitely not the ideal President for kenya. "Mr. Molasses" is a joke too. Do you agree? Obviously you dont.

UrXlnc said...

hehehe vikii

"Do you agree? Obviously you dont"

ebu acha mchezo, you didnt give me the pleasure to answer that one. and you are right among the three my choice remains the same today as it was before RAO. i agree with many of the issues you raise above. have a slight difference in approach but thats expected

have to run out for a little bit, will come back later to discuss in detail, that is if other comments or posts do not overtake or completely submerge this thread but will sure like to have further discussion with you on this.

kalamari said...

Ritch, Isn't it nauseating (and very funny) that we Kenyans mostly unite during tragedies. Its like all we do all day is wait of news of the next dead guy so we can show up with weepy faces to embrace in national mourning.

Why can't we use happy times to foster great friendships. I mean, come to my wedding rather than wait for my funeral.


All the same, leave it to Russia to destroy China's day in the sun.

Hakujakucha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that people celebrate "cut"! The Bukhusu people are actually on a frenzy about 'cut' i saw it on TV. unbelievable!!

Anonymous said...

Urxlnc,

Do you really believe if Mr molasses is the president all the problems we have in kenya will go??

If so you are brainwashed!!

nyagine said...

Anon 2:30,

Why not make a wish list of the qualities you would want to see in a President. Then ask yourself who among our present leaders fits that description - I bet none.

Let me emphasise some of the points above : Since no one is perfect, why not go for a leader who in your view meets most of the expectations.

Ensuring that everything runs perfectly would be a challenge to the best leader. To answer your question - No, all will not be perfect with a Raila presidency. By the way do you agree that in just four months he has displayed the kind of leadership that may just make us make baby steps toward the right diretion?

Dismantling the rot and deep corruption networks will not only require political goodwill, but some effort from EVERYONE.

Have you honestly done your part?

Anonymous said...

An irate woman on Wednesday attacked a man she claimed was her husband who ran away eight years ago.

The man was overpowered by the woman who bit his genitals in full view of the gathered crowd in Meru.

The afternoon drama that lasted 30 minutes caused a traffic snarl-up but police intervened. According to the woman, the man abdicated his responsibilities after siring a child with her.

Police interrogated the two before locking up the man in the cells.

UrXlnc said...

anon 2:30

you need to show me where i've said "all problems will go", i cannot assert such of any one and find it odd that you would of me, we are all above that.

if indeed there existed such a person who could solve all problems, then we would not be in our present predicament because it would be there for all to see. actually according the good book, there is only one such and if you come face to face, then most likely you have left us here.

lets take it easy with those terms that have been used loosely and thrown around carelessly by politicians (such as brainwashed, thieves, thugs, hooligans, etc) trying to stereotype opponents and their supporters. as vikii states above repeating somehting many times will engrave it in our minds and we believe it, but it does not change reality.

UrXlnc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UrXlnc said...

vikii

i agree with most of your points, the sore points were how to go about rectifying and restoring the integrity and dignity of the process, thats what even exacerbated the violence (throw the jamaz out and the jamaz inside saying jaribu muone). typical 101% testosterone (brawn) and 0% intelligence (brain) at work.

remember there was considerable song and dance, (recount/re-tally, run-off, dig-in, protests etc) none of which seemed to take any concrete steps forward without burning the country. but that is now water under the bridge as they say.

in my view right now whats important is where do we want to go from here, how do we tackle our today and how do we prepare for our tomorrow

am trying to keep this brief but will provide you a link for a more in depth discussion if you'd like or we can engage in an more in depth discussion right here if we are ok with the back and forth as well as length of contributions (and sometimes monotony)

UrXlnc said...

nyagine

thanks for that comment, had just started on that route then scaled down, but thats exactly where i was headed.

nyar gine said...

UrXlnc,

I know you are more diplomatic than most of us. Plus, sometimes it's safer to detour - take an alternative route, rather than get derailed trying to dodge all the mad that will predictably be thrown your way.

Anonymous said...

The hunt for the alleged mastermind of the 1998 US embassy bombing has been going on since the beginning of the week resulting in a number of arrests.

The dreaded anti-terrorism police unit, the General Service Unit and other security agencies with the American FBI operatives in tow have carried out several operations in an attempt to apprehend Fazul Abdullah who is said to have sneaked back to the country.

But as it has happened in past terror raids, many innocent people including children have been arrested with some being plucked from vehicles on assumption of being ‘terrorists.’ The lucky ones have been freed while others continue to be held behind bars.

This developing story could be a signal to a new wave of renewed harassments of Muslims.

This campaign coming in the backdrop of the tenth anniversary of the bombing, is raising some questions which point to other possible motives being played under the disguise of hunting for Fazul and eliminating terrorism threats.

As The Standard newspaper suggested, this could be a plan to deflect the growing demands that the government ensures the return of its citizens deported to Ethiopia and Guantanamo Bay.

Muslims are also up in arms against the government for sitting on the report of the Presidential Action Committee which has graphic details about the official policy of discrimination and harassment of Muslims by State agencies.
The rejected Terrorism Bill which is being reintroduced as the Anti-Money Laundering and Crime Bill has also come under intense criticism as another front to oppress the rights of Muslims.

The raids which have now been moved to Nairobi could be used to cool temperatures regarding the uproar over the deportees and the release of the report. It could also be a way of seeking support to ensure that this time round, the new terror legislation sails through parliament.

Further to this, there are many contradictions and inconsistencies which surround the whole saga in the hunt for Fazul Abdullah. Sample these discrepancies.

On Monday, police released copies of passports said to have been used by Fazul. The documents had the same picture but different names, dates and places of birth and serial numbers. They were both issued by the Passport Control Office, Nairobi.

Common sense demands that investigations should be launched to find out how a foreigner who is top on the country’s most wanted persons could have easily managed to acquire Kenyan passports with ease. Going by the rules which require that a passport applicant personally present himself to an immigration official, Fazul could have walked into Nyayo House on at least two different occasions to acquire the documents without being noticed.

Strangely, no one, even the mainstream media whose epitome is Truth, Fairness and Justice are raising this issue.

The picture on the passport was different from the one which was initially circulated and in a buoyant mood, the police said that they finally got his recent picture. Apparently this turned out not to be the case as a day later, we were told that police were seeking experts to draw his most recent illustrations.
According to the police, Fazul has been a regular visitor to the country. In fact, he was even arrested in 2002 and spent a night in the cells before escaping under mysterious circumstances. On every occasion, we are told that the police are closing on him but apparently this is where the hunt ends.

In the latest incident, it was said that he was stealthily being monitored only to escape the police dragnet by a few hours.

If there is no one being taken to task over these bundled operations, questions need to be asked about the credibility of the intelligence agencies.

Another report has been that Fazul was in the country to seek medical treatment and hospitals and clinics were alerted to report his presence. The theory has suddenly changed with the police now claiming that he was in the country on a mission to carry out another attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise hotel in Kikambala earlier bombed in 2002.

We are again seeing Muslims being subjected to harassment in the name of “terrorism,” the ephemeral and much-abused term which has been used as justification to trample on the rights of Muslims.

Islam is a religion which teaches that the life of a human being, no matter his or her faith, is sacred and should be protected at all costs. Islam condemns anyone who involves himself in acts which may result in the loss of lives of innocent people and this is the premise which Muslims stand by. In the 1998 bombing, Muslims too were victims and many lost their lives like other Kenyans of different faiths.

In the quest to find those who were behind this horrible act, Muslims are being treated by government machinery as murderers and subjected to gross abuse under the law.

For more than five years, Muslims have been appealing for an end against this form of injustice but it seems that the government is bent on perpetrating this ugly phenomenon. The Coalition Government was formed with a mandate of ensuring cohesiveness of all Kenyans of different persuasions. What the police are doing now is drive a wedge against a section of its Kenyan citizens, a factor which does not augur well for the interests of the county.

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