The latest appalling and unforgiveable attack on a Nairobi hotel complex is meant to break us as Kenyans and put us on our knees. Its purpose is to scare and frighten us into submission.
Noted British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie was once asked in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US about how to defeat terrorism. “Don’t be terrorized,” was his simple but succinct answer.
This is the key to our ultimate victory over our enemies.
If some of us are feeling defeated or downtrodden in the wake of this atrocity, we could do a lot worse than heed the words of our President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I also take note of the Kenyans who took to social media to encourage one another, to spread hope and hold those distorting information to account. Kenyans showed the world the best part of us: brave, patriotic, loving and unbowed,” President Kenyatta said, in the hours after the attack when the terrorists had all been neutralised.
“We will seek out every single person that was involved in the funding, planning and execution of the heinous act.”
“We will pursue relentlessly wherever they will be until they are held to account.”
President Kenyatta used his speech to the Kenyan people to call for two key things: solidarity and resilience.
These are two strengths that I believe we as Kenyans have and we will need them now more than ever, especially in the days and weeks ahead when our Kenyan security forces strike back against the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization and its enablers.
While the vast majority of us will not be on the physical front-lines of this battle, there is much that we can do to ensure our victory.
We need to continue encouraging each other. We need to reach out to those whose loved ones were taken from us, to those injured physically or scarred mentally by the attack and help all those around us who may fear to continue their daily routines.
As Rushdie related, if we change our lives or become prisoners of fear then the terrorists have won, and we cannot let that happen.
Additionally, we must not let these types of attacks divide us. While some may want to use these attacks to score political points or press long-standing prejudices, we must stand up to these impulses. Violence and hate must only be directed to those who were involved in these attacks. Those who may share the same ethnicity and nationality as the attackers bear no burden of guilt.
We must come together as Kenyans, regardless of ethnic, tribal or religious differences. Let us take some good from so much evil and use this opportunity to unite in righteous solidarity.
We must use all our reserves of resilience to send messages of support, not just for our brave Kenyan Defence Forces, but our government and our Commander-in-Chief, Uhuru Kenyatta.
They will have to make some tough decisions about how best to secure our nation and protect its people. There is no magic wand to wave away the threat of terrorism, far stronger and bigger countries than ours are still under constant threat and attack.
We have to be patient and trust that Uhuru, his advisors and our security forces will do their job and hunt down those behind this atrocity. It will take time and there are sensitive political and diplomatic challenges ahead, but we must trust the man who has broadened our international standing like no other president that he will be able to navigate this tricky test.
The vast amount of support and solidarity expressed by nations and leaders from around the world attest to the goodwill that Kenya already has. President Uhuru must know that when he chooses the time and manner of his response that the whole of Kenya is behind him; man, woman and child.
Meanwhile, we can take some comfort from our holy scriptures, because as we know, our Bible is the font of our wisdom and a place I am sure President Uhuru Kenyatta is gaining and gathering his strength from.
So I dedicate the following verse to the people of Kenya and its leadership; “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. (II Corinthians 4:8).
(Prof Mogambi, a Communication and Social Change Expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi, Email: [email protected])