It seems time stopped on September 21st 2013 at Westgate Mall and since then we have been crying out We Are One.
A grieving nation should pull together. A grieving nation should be determined to do more than just condemn the violence. A nation that is grieving should be told the truth about what happened.
How can we even begin to heal when we are deliberately misinformed by government officials? Why was the truth the first casualty of Westgate and why is the truth being buried along with our loved ones?
When the religious clerics, of various faiths came out to condemn the Westgate attack, they seemed to strongly believe that religion was the motive behind it. It is so easy, to deflect attention at such terrible times, to perhaps try and hasten the grieving process by assuring the public that ‘God is not pleased with terrorists.’
Do we denounce the terrorist and his faith becomes a non-faith? Does God thus reject the Mujahedeen when he arrives in Janna because our clerics denounced his actions as un-Islamic?
It is a fabrication of reality that any terror attack is simply religious. Terrorism by definition is the use of violence and intimidation for a POLITICAL aim. It is because of its inherent political and emotional connotations that there is no universally agreed upon legal definition that can be applied to decide who are terrorists. That means that even the international community considers it a conundrum due to the fact that any groups or states can use violent means to pursue self determination or national liberation.
In October 2011, Kenya Defense Forces made a military incursion into Somalia in response to flagrant cross-border attacks conducted by a militant group called Al-Shabaab. Almost immediately, there were retaliatory attacks from the Northern border and all the way down to Mombasa. Dozens of civilians and military personnel were killed in shootings and grenade attacks by supposed supporters of Al-Shabaab.
According to the Human Rights Watch- World Report 2013 on Kenya, “Security forces often responded by arbitrarily arresting, detaining and beating civilians in Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, and the Dadaab refugee camps.” The report goes on to state:
“There were numerous cases where Kenyan security forces responded to the attacks by abusing civilians. Documented abuses included rape and attempted sexual assault; beatings; arbitrary detention; extortion; the looting and destruction of property.”
Abu Mansur Al-Amriki, the spokesman for Al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack and demanded that the KDF forces pull out of Somalia. He claimed that KDF forces were guilty of atrocities in Somalia and that until they pulled out, Al-Shabaab would continue to attack civilians in Kenya. He made it clear that Kenyans would suffer as the Somali people had suffered under KDF.
The most chilling details of the Westgate siege are now emerging. One unconfirmed report says that a doctor told of tortured bodies, severed heads and hacked limbs. We don’t know how reliable these accounts are, we can only be sure that victims of the Westgate attack, many of them women and children, were most certainly savaged and tormented.
It is something that we, as a nation, have steadfastly ignored, the fact that our own soldiers may be guilty of atrocity in Somalia, and that our own government is culpable in the oppression and abuse of an entire ethnic community even within our borders and causing people in turn to become radicalized.
We are now calling it a “terrorist attack by religious extremists.” Somehow, in the last two weeks, what was a clear political statement has been morphed into simply violence by religious extremists. This morphology was of course greatly enhanced by the religious clerics who loudly condemned the actions as “un-Islamic” and contrary to Islam.
If Al-Shabaab were mere religious extremists, then the majority of their victims since 2006 would be non Muslims. Instead, the majority of the victims and those that are oppressed by Al-Shabaab are Muslims themselves.
There is an uncomfortable truth in all this, the fact that our own soldiers and government maybe guilty of terrorizing people in a pretentious quest to “liberate” them. This is true of war, that civilians and especially women and children are the ones who suffer the most. Even as we seek to now address the security concerns of our nation in the wake of the Westgate siege we need to remember that whatever violence we inflict will be inflicted upon us as well.
This is not the time for religious condemnation or edicts. This is the time for this country to unite beyond its ethnic and political differences and to jointly go back to a war we started. We did not finish Linda Nchi, because we did not bring protection to the country. What Kenyans did is ignore the abuse and oppression that was being reported instead of insisting that these abuses be dealt with and brought to an end, and we made things worse. If we are really one, this is the first truth that we must face and accept for the sake of the country.