Somewhere in Ganjoni area of Mombasa there is a graveyard where my friends and I would go from time to time, to visit their dead relatives.
It was an eerie place. During the day, the beautiful sun shining shyly in between the head stones; I was so respectful, I knew that messing with the dead would mean sure punishment. We would go there to pray; me and my friends, to pray because my buddy’s daddy had died. I remember when my friend, just in standard 4 like me, died. I cried the whole week, knowing she will end up in a place I was scared of.
My mom thought I had been watching too many scary movies.
Friday the 13th was a hit with my older brothers that week.
It HURT. Still does.
We, little children, young as I was, would sneak in among the graves. I let my beautiful little friends grieve, and tell their dead grandparents, their dead parents and their dead sisters and brothers their little stories. It was heart breaking; horrible, but oh so peaceful.
It was normal. Normal to sneak into a grave, normal to talk to a dead relative, normal to feel connected.
I know HOW people die; WHAT they did to the state government that led to their death I just don’t know.
After September 11th 2001, there were increases in oppressive measures mostly orchestrated by the CIA in Kenya and mandated by the Kenyan funded Anti-Terrorism police. Islamic NGOs including the Al-Ibrahim foundations from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia were forced to conform to this “new world order” and some, in fact several, Arabian based NGO’s stopped functioning in East Africa.
There were claims in the west that these institutions were harboring terrorists. The Islamic way is vastly different from the western way; whereas in the west, one is “innocent until proven guilty”; in the East “one is guilty until proven innocent.” And so, the allegation that an NGO like Al- Haramain International harbored the so-called terrorist Faisul Abdallah Mohammed remains a permanent stain to this day.
Following the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in both Kenya and Tanzania, there was a crackdown on Islamic institutions in Kenya under duress. You must remember that the government of Kenya at that time gave no amenities or services to Islamic communities in Kenya, so they received some humanitarian relief from Islamic NGOs.
When it comes to the confessions of the alleged “terrorists” in Kenya; this is what I am told, grimly. “Faisul was killed, so we cannot tell if these allegations were proven.”
1999-2001 was a prelude to a very dark period in Kenya; during this time there was a free reign in for CIA operatives in Kenya and around the world.
They would just come and pick up people.
All suspects of the 1998 bombing were tortured and rendition before they ended up in the black holes in Europe. Nobody questioned those abuses, or the legacy of those actions. The families of suspects were brutalized; nobody challenged these actions.
After 9/11 Counter Terrorism measures were firmed up by decree. A vicious system was put in place; an Anti-Terrorism Squad created by Kenya Police that was well funded by the US, Israel, Britain and France. Thereafter, extrajudicial measures were taken against “suspects”, which included:
Detention without trial
These measures further radicalize Muslims because by detaining entire families; torturing, raping and interrogating them, the PUBLIC feel hunted.
You feel hunted because someone wants you to feel that way. THEY WANT YOU TO FEEL THAT WAY.
At this moment, there are investigations being conducted by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch. Severally, the Kenyan government has been berated for human rights abuses; mainly torture and forced disappearances. Unfortunately, this is the Mondus Operandi in the counter terrorism narrative internationally.
In a country, as fragmented as we are, ETHNICALLY, does it mean that we can split ourselves even further apart by fragmenting ourselves religiously?
It is no secret that the Kenya government has since independence pushed policy that is both Xenophobic towards Muslims but also towards certain ethnicities. A matter seemingly as simple as issuance of identification cards becomes a cold and disheartening war against people who are Muslims.
This is 2013 and the 21st Century. We can stop crying at graves, and we can stop hating each other. We can end decades of xenophobic tendencies towards Muslims and other ethnicities in schools, at work and in social and political gatherings and organizations. We can bloody GROW UP. It’s time to be fair, and to be just.
Betty Waitherero Njoroge is a writer, a human rights activist and a producer for television. She writes commentary and opinion pieces on socio-political matters in Kenya and runs her own blog on www.bettywaitherero.blogspot.com
She is passionate about the color red, loves roast chicken and red wine, will spend most of her day buried in literature, articles or texts, and she is a mother. Betty hopes to join the University of Nairobi in 2013 and pursue masters in Anthropology, concentrating on Gender, Culture and Language. Her favorite quote is “Brevity is the soul of lingerie” by US author and humorist Dorothy Parker; her rather amusing take on Shakespeare’s famous quote by Hamlet – “Brevity is the soul of wit.”