Monday, April 14, 2014

Fighting Terrorists; Kenya

On Friday 6th, April 2014. I went to Gikomba, passing through Eastleigh in those number 28s with their music, and uncanny touts…. Looking out the window as the driver skirted the many potholes and miniature valleys and hillocks, I found myself looking at young Somali men, and big bou bou clad women, shapely girls, boys, youthful sprints. I suspected every backpack of the hurrying pedestrians; people minding their business, trying to ask myself which of them could be the terrorist, which planning to carry out a terror activity. I was gripped by an apprehensive fear on what could be, what could happen out of the noisy, chaotic bustle of this ever growing, people-burgeoning-place, the rising sky crappers, the roads under construction, the bust sewer lines. The blossoming of investment in an environment that also bears the dents of neglect. 

Eastleigh has always awed me…the way things work themselves out, the making of money in chaos, the flowing billions, and how people took an easy stand on life. The routine way life could form a predictable pattern. Make money in the self same way from day to day, but with changes taking form every day, all around, the flexibility with which change could be embraced. From the Ethiopian barbers on 9th street and their excellent shaving services to the goods from Dubai. Young men here understand the dynamics of the international trade; they know which country manufactures the best khaki products, which country delivers on the suits, the jeans and everything textile and in turn Eastleigh has learnt how to dress Kenyans. With the legitimacy of most businesses comes the need for other black market goods, young kikuyu men dealing expensive phones stolen from the rich Kenya, newly used laptops, silver chains and gold teeth, the easy way of transferring money from the western world to Africa in hidden offices among those cloth stores lining the many malls.  There is no black and white in Eastleigh; everything flows into the other seamlessly. Good into Evil, refugees into citizens, terrorists have used this to plan their covert agendas.

Eastleigh is a center for the rebirth of predominantly Somali and Ethiopian immigrants in Kenya, they own each of the Kenyan progress, and they now share in the struggles and problems of their “new home” Kenya. They protest when the government passes laws that are not realistic, they rejoiced when KDF went into Somalia. They trusted their lives with Kenya, a new place, a new reality. But on Saturday 6th April, 2014 the Kenyan government woke up and decided to server that trust and silent understanding that the Somali people have managed to learn to live with. The soldiers embarked on erasing the process of remaking dreams in a whole new world by vulnerable mothers, children and young people looking for refuge. The sentimentalism of home, of memories that loomed large like shadows of a distant sun became live again, thawing the networks of neurons in their memories to rekindle the spark of sunny days in their own homes and conjuring images of dark days, hunger, lost brothers and sisters, lost dreams and hopes.

On Saturday 7th April 2014 I was on Juja road going into town as early as 7am. The jam began just around Moi Air Base, after a whole hour of waiting in the slow moving jam; we came upon the first roadblock. Police Check. Identity cards were being checked for each passenger in the Matatu. Pedestrians as well were arbitrarily being asked to produce their ID cards. I am sitting and waiting for my turn to show my ID, all the while acting sanely Kenyan and trying to reach down to my patriotic side. The people of Eastleigh are having a tough time both from the fear that hung's over their heads and now the police.

The Kenyan government has almost always embarked on superficial responses to existential threats of terror in a self defeating way. The government has as repeatedly shown by terrorist activities embarked on symptomatic treatment, PR gimmick and hogwash promises to stem out terrorists, to stop terrorism in its tracks.  

Eastleigh has been a victim of the terror attacks; it has suffered greatly from the acts of the marauding terrorists that hide among the many faces of generosity and trusting Somalis. The government actions are reactionary. This is purely a short term plan formulated by some myopic goon in the Ole Lenku circus of security clowns.

Sunday 7th April, 2014, it’s a brightly sunny day, I am in a cyber shop in Marsabit, checking my mail, no worries of police harass, no worries of terror because in “far off” places of Kenya like this one, insecurity is a major problem but not on a level of terrorism. Communal fighting and inter-tribal wars are part of the growing up in Marsabit but it is not as scary as terrorism. I am waiting for the page to load. Then in walks these three kids, boys between 10 and 13 dressed in brown Kanzus and varied jumpers over them. A curious perversity makes me watch the kids, see if they are here to log into Facebook or whether it’s some online game they want to play. The slightly older one hit Google and types in “Ibrahim Rogo” and when the search result returns he dutifully clicked on the Images under the result tab. The pictures that came up on the screen were very graphic, blood, police, guns and corpses. More shocking was the little boy’s mystery of the faces on the search result. He is pointing to the pictures and says

“this is Samantha’s (white widow’s) husband”

“this is Aboud Rogo’s brother”

“this is  Masjid Musa”

“this is how Aboud Rogo was shot…this is his body in the car”

I am in shock! How does he know all that? I lean back and secretly snap a few pictures of them on my phone. And ask them how I could also access those pictures. The youngest boy excitedly says
 “There are so many others you can find….type Samir Khan”
I do it and he says “click on images”
Samir Khan is all over my screen. Posing with an AK47 gun.
I look at the boys. One is sucking his thumb. They are glued to the screen.
Something just ticks in my mind. I finish what I am doing and watch the kids. One suggests that they Google search “illuminatti” the older one says
“it’s the same thing as yesterday”
They paid and left. I ask the lady at the counter if those children frequent her cyber. She says. They were here yesterday and the day before.
This is not an isolated incidence., this is how children and young people are radicalized and in Marsabit they are so many. About 58 young boys and girls from Marsabit are purported to have joined the Al-shabab, there are many sympathizers of Al-shabab in Marsabit.
If the Kenyan police and government want to do something on fighting Terrorism in Kenya. They should start from the grassroots. Not undertaking such PR and superficial responses as the Eastleigh case.
While KDF is fighting the al-shabab in Somalia, young people are being radicalized in their back yard, taught to grow up with a flawed outlook on life, community, religion and their lives.

Images and pictures have a lasting impression on the mind. 

Whoever controls the images controls your self-esteem, self-respect and self-development. Whoever controls the History controls the vision". - Dr. Leonard Jeffries