HomeEditorial CommentTERRORISING KENYA

TERRORISING KENYA

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FOR MANY of us life goes on in the bloody aftermath of the gruesome al-Shabab attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi.

-Sukoluhle Nyathi

It’s business as usual as we go on about the daily pursuits of our everyday lives.

For our kith and kin in Kenya, some are trying to pick up the pieces or what’s left of their loved ones in the wreckage of the collapsed mall.

Hundreds more, still nurse injuries incurred in the traumatic episode which for four days we watched with bated breaths as it unravelled on our television screens.

A novice might have mistaken it for an action packed suspense Hollywood thriller with Denzel Washington in the lead.

However, those horrific scenes being played before our eyes were not an act.

It was a painful reality. And to think it was barely a month ago when the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport burst into flames!

Conspiracy theories started forming in my mind as I figured there was no smoke without fire and for four days, smoke was emitted from the Westgate mall while gunshots rang in the background.

Those who survived the ordeal live to tell the story.

We continue to hear firsthand accounts of those who were held captive in this shopping area.

Even more terrifying are the lingering memories that will inhabit their minds for a long time to come.

However, there are those who met an early demise in this September 21 standoff.

Sixty-two civilians were reported dead and six other security officers lost their lives in the line of duty.

There are 61 other individuals that remained unaccounted for who might be among the rubble through which the forensic team of experts cobs following this siege.

Westgate mall is an upmarket shopping area located in the Westlands neighbourhood of Nairobi. It is largely patronised by the affluent Kenyan society and the expatriate community.

When the news first broke out on Saturday afternoon, I naïvely thought it was a shopping mall heist.

These tend to be the order or the day in South Africa, especially in festive seasons.

Just yesterday, late afternoon, news broke out that there was a skirmish at Northgate mall following an attempted cash heist.

However, it turned out that what was happening in Kenya was not a gang orchestrated mall heist, but a more serious heinous terrorist attack led by al-Shabab.

Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of violence to threaten, attack or terrorise people.

So who is al-Shabaab? Shabaab is an Arabic word which means “Youth” and so essentially al-Shabaab is a Somalia-based militant youth movement.

Their sole mission is waging jihad or Holy War against “enemies of Islam”.

Kenya is considered one such enemy for the deployment of Kenyan troops in Somalia in an effort to capture Mogadishu from the al-Shabaab militants in 2011.

That vendetta has been paid dearly by the loss of innocent lives.

Al-Shabaab composition is multi-ethnic with Somalians and foreigners.

Samantha Lewthwaite’s involvement with the group shows the diversity and multi-ethnic nature of the group whose common foundation is Islam.

The 29-year-old female fondly known as the “White Widow” is now on the Interpol wanted list for the role she might have played in masterminding the September 21 attack as well as being in possession of explosives.

The plot thickened as Samantha was found in possession of a South African passport which she acquired using an alias while in the country between 2008-2011.

It raised pertinent questions as to how many other terrorists are walking around with fraudulently obtained documents busy orchestrating terrorist attacks.

It’s an uncomfortable thought and I shift in my seat.

The realisation hits us that we are all vulnerable in one way or the other.

That an innocent trip to a mall to spend money might end up with you spending hours fighting for the last threads of your life!

This is the fragility of life which comes with no price tag.

I leave you on this rather morbid note with deepest sympathies to Kenya as they try and navigate past this tribulation.

 Sukoluhle Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi

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