Friday, September 19, 2014

That day changed everything.

The outrage has not abated. A year ago I was a visitor in a strange land with strange customs, strange foods and an aggressive-sounding patois to its employment of the Queen's English. I sat horrified before my TV in the hotel watching a Nairobi landmark going up in smoke. Al Jazeera and CNN and BBC said the same thing. The Westgate Mall was under siege. Dozens of my fellowman had been murdered by terrorists. Several police had been killed by soldiers. Soldiers? This was not a scene from John McTiernan's Die Hard. What I was seeing was something I thought happened Over There.

One year later we are still outraged. Because of the terrible loss of life. Because of the mumbling, bumbling incompetence of the men in charge. Because of the lies we were told. Because al Shabaab seemed to become more and more emboldened. Because even now we do not know what really happened. We were lied to. We lied to again and again to cover the lies that we had been told - and those we had not.

Our outrage will dissipate, so they say. With time, everything dissipates. But they forget that the memory will linger for as long as we draw breath. We will forever know that when the chips were down, it were a handful of policemen and civilians who picked up the gantlet thrown down by al Shabaab and acted with courageous selflessness. On that day, when chaos reigned, and Harambee House was a Babel of confusion, these men and women saved lives and paid the price.

None of us will forget the outrage the police felt when the ill-trained soldiers killed their colleagues. Noe of us will forget the shame we felt when we saw that Cabinet Secretary being marionetted by the Chief of Defence Forces on live TV. None will forget the stone-faced sun-glassed visage of the silent Cabinet Secretary, the one who remained mum for the entire period of crisis. None of us will forget the despair we experienced when the Commander-in-Chief spoke to us and made promises which he is yet to honour.

In a year many of us have accepted and many of us have moved on. But the families of the slain can do neither. They - we - demand answers. We want to know why our parents, siblings, children, friends...died. We want to know why policemen sent to the rescue died. We want to know how our borders were penetrated by four men. We want to know who their accomplices were. We want to know why a building in the control of soldiers was looted. We want to know why!

Some of us will never accept. Some will never move on. Until we know the truth there will always be a hole in our collective psyche. There will always be doubt that things are as we are told they are. The fear will always be there; should we or shouldn't we visit Sarit Centre, TRM, Prestige Plaza, The Junction, Village Market? Is it safe to take Kiambu Road, Forest Road, Uhuru Highway, Langata Road? Is the man waving a firearm around a friend or not? Until we know it all, we may never trust the simple things in life again. That day changed everything.

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