Terror attack a stark reminder of why we must stick together
- For now, we all mourn. We send comforting words — which may never be enough — to the families of the departed compatriots, while wishing a timely recovery to the injured.
- We commend security agencies and their locally based international allies for what was clearly a better coordinated rescue mission.
On Tuesday January 15, Kenya came under attack. As gunmen descended on 14 Riverside Drive – targeting patrons of the luxurious dusitD2 Hotel and adjacent office blocks – the country was once again triggered, reminded of similar incidents where innocent Kenyan blood was spilt by misguided militant elements who remain fixated on the country as some sort of easy target, for whatever geopolitical or other reasons.
A now undesirably familiar state of fear and limbo engulfed the country and indeed the world — akin to that experienced during the August 1998 bomb blast, the September 2013 Westgate Mall attack and the April 2015 Garissa University bloodbath, among other terrorist hits on Kenya — as everyone worried about the resultant degree of harm the overzealous gunmen would inflict on civilians minding their everyday business.
Kenya was once again choking under a thick cloud of collective national anxiety — reliving a recurring state of national trauma as previously precipitated by similar attacks — whereas the tragedy unfolded, everyone wanted to know something, everything, and see if there was anything that could be done to urgently secure the wellbeing of those caught in the crossfire. In the resultant state of confusion, a sense of communal hopefulness and hopelessness checks in, of simultaneously feeling helpless while wanting something to be done urgently to neutralise the attackers — knowing the country’s security agencies have the means to do so.
Naturally, this series of events sets in motion all kinds of responses and reactions from all kinds of individuals. From medical first responders, daring gun holders seeking to buttress security agencies at the scene, blood donors, volunteer food suppliers, to taxi hailing apps which offered free rides to blood donors, the works – all of whom seek to make a little contribution in making the rescue efforts quicker, smoother, and a little less laborious. It is this sort of genuine human solidarity which makes things bearable.
Then there are those – expectedly in this age of social media — who take to the internet. Here is where one finds a mixed bag. There are those expressing solidarity with the victims, their friends and families. Then comes the self-styled bloggers, working overtime to appear to be ahead of everyone else in the breaking news game, sharing sometimes sensational, unverified and even misleading information. Not to be left behind are the digital critics, choosing that exact moment of fear, grief and confusion to launch salvos against the state’s security apparatus – questioning intelligence gathering, poking holes on the periodic government updates – with some asking about the whereabouts of the Commander-in-Chief, questioning his long silence.
It is in these moments of chaos and loss of life — of coming face to face with the ugliness that is terrorism — that we get to see the different sides and faces of each other, by how we all choose to react and respond to whatever we understand to be happening. Our collective humanity — or lack thereof in the case of terrorists — comes alive, where complete strangers make the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for the sake of saving those of other strangers, motivated by nothing but the belief of wishing fellow human beings well.
It is during such moments when the country comes together to protect itself while licking its wounds as inflicted by the attackers that we are reminded of the need and inevitability of sticking together, because it is only by doing so that we have time and again managed to pull through at different times of crisis.
If we understood this to be our collective predicament — that when Kenya bleeds we all bleed — then we would all learn to stick together because no matter how deep our internal divisions go, in the eyes of the enemies of Kenya and Kenyans we are all the same, targets of their heinous attacks whether male or female, Christian or Muslim, black or white, rich or poor, or whatever other superficial classification we may fancy.
Once we embrace this reality — that there are instances where and when we must stick together regardless — then and only then can we start to comprehensively tackle the threat of terrorism and similar security threats as a people, in collaboration with the state, which we always look at suspiciously for one reason or another.
For now, we all mourn. We send comforting words — which may never be enough — to the families of the departed compatriots, while wishing a timely recovery to the injured. We commend security agencies and their locally based international allies for what was clearly a better coordinated rescue mission in what could have been a much worse catastrophe, with an even higher number of fatalities. To the terrorists, you may spread death, hate and fear. But in the end, love and human solidarity triumphs. Kenya shall rise again.