BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
The story and accompanying pictures of Abdul Haji epitomizes the Kenyan spirit.
He is not a trained police or military officer but just a licensed gun holder. Writers, camera crew, fire-fighters, police officers, civilians, scouts, mobile service providers, bloggers, tweeters, counsellors, politicians and emergency service providers are posters of what Kenyans are; resilient, strong and persevering. They are enduring images that capture the human spirit.
We cannot allow terrorists to feel that they have won by living in fear. We must overcome this artificial sense of insecurity and fear that has been created by the attack which was carried out by cowards. The Westgate attack, which was also followed by other cowardly assaults in Wajir and Mandera, were meant to test not only our intelligence and security, but also the fragility of our unity and resolve to be one country.
They were meant to make us fear each other as well as live in fear of going about our businesses as usual. We are witnessing a range of emotions emanating from the attack. Other than the renewed sense of unity and victory in defeating the terrorists, a lot of Kenyans are expressing anger on how the situation came to be and was handled and also the damage caused by the operations. But in the words of the President, our solidarity, patience and resolve have seen us through the worst of the Westgate crisis.
The attackers’ aim, just like in any other terror attack, was to spring fear within the society that cripples our daily operations. This is something that we must jealously guard against. From the moment news filtered in that Westgate was under attack on Saturday at midday to Tuesday evening when President Uhuru called victory for Kenyan forces, Kenyans were transfixed to their TV screens, computers, mobile phones and even radios to glean more information of the unprecedented attack.
Ordinary Kenyans became citizen journalists as they informed their world through social media on the goings on. Government institutions involved in the rescue missions kept Kenyans abreast of latest developments through the social media. The power of social media cannot be over-emphasized in this country.
Kenyans left the comfort of their homes and donated blood in virtually all our cities and major towns. Kenyans from all walks of life altered their budgets and sent via M-PESA the little amount they could afford. Our politicians correctly read the mood and cast aside their political differences in the wake of an attack inspired by Lucifer’s high office of evil.
President Uhuru was on the frontline to encourage the country despite having lost a close relative to the attackers and kept Kenyans posted as to the progress our security services were making.
The President and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s joint address to the nation was a reminder to doubting Thomases that deep down we value our country and not even the devil’s agents would divide us. Kenya Red Cross Society, whose Secretary General Dr Abbas Gullet led from the front, worked round the clock to ensure people within their reach were well catered for. The terrorists’ aim of shaking our resolve and stir more trouble in Somalia failed miserably.
However, we must remain vigilant and help the security apparatus weed out criminals who may be hiding amidst us. The public must ignore the propaganda spewed by enemies who are bent on destabilizing our chosen way of life.
Indeed, if all Kenya did wrong was intervene in Somalia after the international community turned a blind eye to the catastrophe that had refused to subside since 1991, then we are sure glad to be wrong.
What Kenya is experiencing, is heightened levels of fear, which reminds us that we are all the same regardless of our tribe, religion or political affiliation. We all stand affected by such attacks.
This fear should push us to love our nation even more and be ready to defend it at all costs.
The second stanza of our National Anthem comes to mind at this point:
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend
We will stay put. We will fight. We will win. We must overcome the fear created by the attack and live beyond it.
(The writer is a Political and Communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)