Post-Election Violence has claimed more lives than any terrorist Attack in Kenya. Could we have Masked the actual face of Terrorism in Kenya?

Tuesday, 15th January, 2019 was supposed to be a normal working day in a blistering Nairobi. Traffic as usual, school children bulging their heavy bags to school, lovers planning an evening date and another policeman taking a bribe on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

But 3pm turned tragically dreadful after an explosion interrupted the town’s swift bustle at 14 Riverside Drive, followed by gunshots and soon, death; adding to the tiresome string of sickly terrorist attacks on unsuspecting citizens.

It’s not new to us but with each knock comes a scandalous soreness that plunges the country into trauma.

Kenya By The Riverside: The Looming Ghost of Terrorism in Kenya

Students of Zagreb University in Croatia honour the 147 victims of the terror attack at Garissa - Terrorism in Kenya
Students of Zagreb University in Croatia honour the 147 victims of the terror attack at Garissa – Terrorism in Kenya
Post-Election Violence has claimed more lives than any terrorist Attack in Kenya. Have we Masked the actual face of Terrorism in Kenya? Click To Tweet

Kenya was declared a one party state on June, 1982. Two months later a botched coup saw Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka rule for about six hours.

Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi had been at the helm of Kenya’s coming of age albeit shaky democracy for four years upon Mzee Kenyatta’s final bow.

Before you continue reading this, I highly recommend this article about How Kenya has Failed her Youth written by Boniface Mwangi. It is an honest, emotional and critical perspective on the current state of Kenya in relation to Radicalisation of Youth and Terrorism. Click here to open the article in a new tab.

Data About Terrorist Attacks in Kenya:

Before we get deeper into this, here’s a short video from data-centered team: Odipo Dev. It is key to note that the narrative around terror attacks makes them seem like a rare event.

However, since 2011, Kenya has faced 321 terror attacks; that is a new attack every 9 days. Here’s a look at 29 of the deadliest attacks.

Via: @OdipoDev It is key to note that the narrative around terror attacks makes them seem like a rare event. However, since 2011, Kenya has faced 321 terror attacks; that is a new attack every 9 days. Here's a look at 29 of the… Click To Tweet

1975 OTC Bus Explosion that Killed 30 but missed Target, JM Kariuki

In early 1975, three years before the supposed founding father of the nation succumbed to illness, a bus explosion at OTC swallowed 30 people into its belly but missed the one person it was meant to slaughter – JM Kariuki: the smart wit mouthed author of “Mau Mau Detainee” who once said:

“Every Kenyan man, woman and child is entitled to a decent and just living. That is a birthright. It is not a privilege. He is entitled as far as is humanly possible to equal educational, job and health opportunities irrespective of his parentage, race or creed or his area of origin in this land.

If that is so, deliberate efforts should be made to eliminate all obstacles that today stand in the way of this just goal. That is the primary task of the machinery called Government: our Government.”

JM Kariuki
1975 OTC Bus Explosion that Killed 30 but missed Target, JM Kariuki - Terrorism in Kenya
1975 OTC Bus Explosion that Killed 30 but missed Target, JM Kariuki – Terrorism in Kenya

When J.M. disappeared there were a lot of explosions, to distract the people, to create an impression that J.M. had died in the OTC bombing. It was kind of a red herring. 27 people perished. People were angry, very, very angry. Lee Njiru

1980 Norfolk Hotel Bombing where 20 People Died

Like many other murders in our good country, nobody was punished for his brutal demise that March.

The 1980 Norfolk Hotel bombing that ran down twenty lives and believed to be an act of revenge by pro-Palestinian militants for Kenya’s supporting role in Israel’s Operation Entebbe unconsciously signalled the appalling reality of terrorism in Kenya we were to deal with in forthcoming years, 8 calendars before I was born.

The hotel was owned by a prominent member of the local Jewish Community. But it was not until 18 years later that the real monster trampled Kenyan soil with the US Embassy bombing at Cooperative House. 200+ painfully down the drain. Rwanda was still coming to terms with the genocide that wiped nearly a million souls four years before and the onset of Kosovo War. I was 10.

1980 Norfolk Hotel Bombing that Killed 20 IMAGE Richard McColl - Terrorism in Kenya
1980 Norfolk Hotel Bombing that Killed 20 IMAGE Richard McColl – Terrorism in Kenya

Israeli Passenger-Airliner Missile Attack

In 2002, as a KCPE candidate battling the pressures of my first national exam, two missiles were fired at, but missed, an Israeli passenger airliner as it took off from Mombasa airport. Subsequently, there was an attack on the Kikambala Hotel when it was receiving Israeli tourists.

The hotel blast occurred just after some 60 visitors had checked into the hotel, all of them from Israel, hotel officials said. 13 were killed and 80 injured. Ten Kenyans died.

Then Al-Shabaab struck in 2012 and 2013. I was then a campus student, voting for the first time as a Kenyan citizen. On my 26th birthday a year later, they nabbed Mpeketoni with their cowardice claiming the lives of more than 60 people in the two-day rampage. Garissa followed suit in 2015, 147 dead at a time I was nursing a ruinous heartbreak from a dying romance.

Remembering the 147 victims of Kenya's Garissa University attack IMAGE Boniface Mwangi - Terrorism in Kenya
Remembering the 147 victims of Kenya’s Garissa University attack IMAGE Boniface Mwangi – Terrorism in Kenya

Post-Election Violence has claimed more lives than any terrorist Attack in Kenya

Not only had Kenya been rocked by these spaced out evil occasions that intensified from 2012. We had waded through 1992, 1997 and 2007 pre & post-election clashes and massacres that had wiped out more people than any terrorist attack.

In fact, two major International Criminal Court (ICC) suspects, the current President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto, contested for the top office in the 2013 elections and won.

Between late 1991 and December 1992, when Kenya held its first multiparty elections in more than two decades, at least 1,000 people were killed and 200,000 displaced in the worst ethnic violence since independence from Britain in 1963.

Post-Election Violence has claimed more lives than all terrorist Attacks in Kenya combined! Click To Tweet
Al Shabaab gives the youth something to die for in areas where the govt gives the youth nothing to live for. ~ @RamzZy_ Click To Tweet

The Likoni Attack of August 1997 was devastating. Statistics compiled by the police, which provide a conservative estimate, indicate that a total of 104 people were killed in the violence, at least 133 more injured, and hundreds of structures damaged.

83 Human rights groups estimate that, in addition to more than a hundred people killed, some 100,000 people were displaced.

Then came the mother of them all. The horrific 2007/8 clashes that put to rest 1,400 of us, displacing more than 300,000.

Kenyans walk past a destroyed house in the sprawling Kibera slums - Peace Wanted Alive graffiti by Solo 7
Kenyans walk past a destroyed house in the sprawling Kibera slums – Peace Wanted Alive graffiti by Solo 7
What is the real face of Terror in Kenya? • Isiolo Massacre (1960s) – over 2700 deaths • Kisumu Massacre (1969) – over 11 deaths • Garissa Massacre (1980) – over 3000 deaths • Wagalla Massacre (1984) – over 5000 deaths Click To Tweet

In addition, this is a reflection of the massacres perpetuated by the Kenya Government:

  • Isiolo Massacre (1960s) – over 2700 deaths
  • Kisumu Massacre (1969) – over 11 deaths
  • Garissa Massacre (1980) – over 3000 deaths
  • Wagalla Massacre (1984) – over 5000 deaths

Back to July, 7, 1990.

The famous Saba Saba: A Pro-Democracy Rally…

A pro-democracy rally organized by members of opposition groups at Kamukunji stadium in Nairobi declared illegal.

6,000 people reportedly turned up and riots broke out when a contingent of police arrived in riot gear and began using batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The crowd responded by hurling stones at the police and stoning cars. Soon the riots spread to the outskirts of Nairobi, toward Majengo and Pumwani shanties. The riots reportedly lasted four days and left 20 people dead, many others injured, and more than 1,000 people in jail.

Saba Saba Rally - Twenty five years ago today, Kenyans poured into Nairobi from early hours, defying tight security and dire warnings to demand a piece of the promise our founding fathers made at independence
Saba Saba Rally – Twenty five years ago today, Kenyans poured into Nairobi from early hours, defying tight security and dire warnings to demand a piece of the promise our founding fathers made at independence
Mtukufu Rais had declared KANU would rule for 100 years, blackmailing Kenyans that multiparty politics would stimulate ethnic hatred and divisions. Click To Tweet

Mtukufu Rais had declared KANU would rule for 100 years, blackmailing Kenyans that multiparty politics would stimulate ethnic hatred and divisions.

Cleverly or just stupidly disregarding the people’s unity that burned the fire of multiparty activists and the Mau Mau uprising before independence. And by extension, the people of Africa had spiritually united against the humiliation of colonial rule.

The remains of cars and other debris at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, - Terrorism in Kenya
The remains of cars and other debris at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, IMAGE: Times of Israel – Terrorism in Kenya

The 6,000 was everybody. Tribe was insignificant. Watching how Kenyans came together during the 1998 bombing and through every other terrorist attack offers a rather compelling depiction of our humanity as a people, and yet an observer of our relations off these hapless adversities would be dismayed at our ominous contempt for one another. Our nationalism fades when tragedy is forgotten.

Garissa 147 is not just a number Attack - Terrorism in Kenya
Garissa 147 is not just a number Attack – Terrorism in Kenya
Watching how Kenyans came together during the 1998 bombing (and through every other terrorist attack) offers a rather compelling depiction of our humanity... Why does our nationalism fade when tragedy is forgotten? Click To Tweet

We’re here again in 2019. News is just in there’s been an explosion at 14 Riverside Drive. Twitter goes buzzing. TV stations dash to the scene with panicky nondescript reporting. A curious, headstrong citizen journalism contingent goes berserk.

Ronald Ng’eno tweets he’s hiding in a bathroom. He bids his family farewell in case he doesn’t make it. Gunshots in the building. Phone charge almost off, please pray. Then he’s home with his family, thanking the security forces for a commendable job. 700 people are evacuated to safety. We lose more than 20. Red Cross. Blood donation. Nairobi is as tense as a frightened giraffe.

Two Children embrace each other as the overlook a crowd - Kenya post election violence PHOTO REUTERS Georgina Cranston
Two Children embrace each other as the overlook a crowd – Kenya post election violence PHOTO REUTERS Georgina Cranston
Now, we have to explain to kids that there are bad people in this world who enjoy killing... like a meal of nyoyo & porridge in the hills of Ugenya or the slopes of Murang’a, or Kinangop, or a racist news post on New York Times. Click To Tweet

Condolences. We shall overcome. Kenya is united. Prayers from Ethiopia, Jamaica, USA, Uganda, even hell I suppose. And now we have to explain the chaos to kids.

We have to convince them there are bad people in this world who enjoy killing others like a meal of nyoyo and porridge on Sunday mornings in the hills of Ugenya or the slopes of Murang’a, or Kinangop, or a racist news post on New York Times. They enjoy it.

One of the cars found outside the Dusit Hotel after the Riverside Attack - Terrorism in Kenya
One of the cars found outside the Dusit Hotel after the Riverside Attack, suspected to have been laced with explosives – Terrorism in Kenya

Still unclear why our troops are in Somalia. But what’s the worst tragedy; that a government fails to curb terrorism in Kenya or that it terrorises its own people?

This is, as Ugandan poet, Harriet Anena wrote it, A Nation in Labour. Pain is work. After a month this should be gone. We’ll be back to our tickly Whatsapp memes and Friday night club beer hang outs. National TV will host political pundits explaining what government must do. And Patanisho must still continue. Hakuna mbbbrrrrcha!

And then we’ll blame the Muslims. The Kenyan Somali. We’ll say they should go back home. But Luos are still here from South Sudan and Kikuyus don’t know anyone in Congo. We’ll go back to Tinder and Instagram.

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Those of us in the city with important lives, suits to repair, shoes to buy, conferences to attend, drugs to sell, bills to pay and friends to lie to. Everyone else outside the city is not Kenyan.

Saba-Saba On July 7th 2018, Saba Saba day, residents from Kayole, Mathare, Dandora, Kamkunji, Mukuru, Githurai, Kibera and elsewhere
Saba-Saba On July 7th 2018, Saba Saba day, residents from Kayole, Mathare, Dandora, Kamkunji, Mukuru, Githurai, Kibera and elsewhere
The river flows downstream. And all we really want is on the other side of the river bed. But nobody wants to get into the water. It’s full of blood. Click To Tweet

Land injustice, extrajudicial killings, ethnic clashes, corruption, hate speech, multiple discrimination, cyber bullying, will all take care of themselves. The river flows downstream.

And all we really want is on the other side of the river bed. But nobody wants to get into the water. It’s full of blood.

This is trauma.

Have we Masked the actual face of Terrorism in Kenya?

Doesn’t it get to you we live in a world in which one bullet ends a struggle, a family’s dream, a love that took long to build and one that’s beginning, a child’s only hope?

And yet a nation moves on, tragically wounded, subconsciously ailing from post-traumatic stress disorder, unwittingly but systematically poisoned by a sick government.

14 Riverside Drive Attack; Westlands, Nairobi- Responding to Terror (Update) - IMAGE - Leon Lidigu
14 Riverside Drive Attack; Westlands, Nairobi- Responding to Terror (Update) – IMAGE – Leon Lidigu

Kisasi – A Short Film about Terrorism & Youth Radicalisation in Kenya

A father desperate for justice of his 6months old son’s murder. Lack of justice renders him vulnerable to anything and anyone, all he can count on is the course.

I have just watched Kisasi - A Short Film about Terrorism & Youth Radicalisation in Kenya. I recommend you to watch it too now. #WeHaveOvercome #KenyaUnbowed Click To Tweet

Kisasi serves a revelation of who really can be of use to terrorist groups and how to notice when they have been radicalized. STARRING Makrin Andala,Dan Nsubuga, Adelyne Nimo, Pauline Munini.

Writer-director-editor: Paul Ogola
Executive Producer: Galaxy Players
DOP: Felix Odongo
Sound: Kevin Machimbo
Assistant Director: Pascal Omondi
Music: Sarabi Band
Subtitles: English
Running time: 20 minutes

The Power of a Traumatised Country – Fighting Terrorism in Kenya

Here’s to reminding us this pain can turn into something grandiose for the movement of activism, social justice and equality.

Here’s to reminding us this pain can turn into something grandiose for the movement of activism, social justice and equality. Click To Tweet

Here’s to standing for the protection of our agency in the manner in which our stories are told by Western media.

Here’s to standing for the protection of our agency in the manner in which our stories are told by Western media. Click To Tweet

Here’s to reminding us we can change – evolve even, into courageous seekers of truth demanding accountability for our taxes.

Here’s to reminding us we can change – evolve even, into courageous seekers of truth demanding accountability for our taxes. Click To Tweet

Here’s to keeping the love alive long after tragedies have turned into memories. Because we’ve been through enough to just let it all go.

Here’s to keeping the love alive long after tragedies have turned into memories. Because we’ve been through enough to just let it all go. Click To Tweet

About the Author – Onyango Otieno:

Eric Onyango Otieno Rixpoet - Fatuma's Voice - Mental Health
Eric Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet) – Fatuma’s Voice – Mental Health Advocate

Eric Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet) has written for the Kenyan Section of The International Commission of Jurists and overseen an online exchange commissioned by The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) on Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights in 6 African countries.

Onyango Otieno is also the Mental Health Brand Ambassador for The Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance in Kenya (NCDAK).

Besides, being the Program co-ordinator at Fatuma’s Voice, Onyango Otieno is also the Mental Health Brand Ambassador for The Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance in Kenya (NCDAK).

If this article made sense to you, here’s a related post regarding Uganda’s Robert Kyanguli, AKA Bobi Wine. It addresses the silencing of activists in Africa as well as the misuse of power by presidential dictators. Read it here now to understand How censorship is working against Uganda’s tyranny and Dictatorship.