For years the rich and middle classes believed that
the rot that is eating away at our society would not
affect them. Instead of fixing the system, they found
ways around it.
When the public school system went to the dogs,
they built their own exclusive private schools.
When the police proved to be too corrupt or
incompetent, they hired private security companies
and personal bodyguards.
When the local authority failed to collect garbage,
they recruited the services of private firms.
When the streets became too dirty and unsafe, they
built giant malls. When druglords and thieves
became politicians, they convinced themselves that
it had nothing to do with the future of their children.
The Westgate terror attack demolished this false
sense of security.
It demonstrated that when the rot starts eating away
at the very fabric of society, even the rich are not
immune to being ravaged by it.
The terrorists who lay siege on Westgate took
advantage of the fact that the Kenyan state has been
captured by liars, thieves, murderers, money
launderers and druglords.
They realised long ago that the Kenyan public can
and will do nothing about this, even if it is at the cost
of their own lives.
They knew they could easily buy their way through
our borders. Maybe they also knew that our defence
forces would be more interested in looting during a
terror attack than in protecting lives.
Two years ago, the International Peace Institute
published a damning report titled Termites at Work
in which it detailed the various ways in which the
Kenyan state has been captured from within by all
kinds of unsavoury characters.
It warned that if these “termites” are not eliminated
there was a great risk that the country would go the
route of Colombia and Mexico where drug lords hold
organs of the state hostage. Criminality and
insecurity would become the order of the day.
Everyone, including the rich and powerful, would be
affected by the general lawlessness and anarchy. It
seems that day has come. The sad thing is that this
was not supposed to happen under the new
We were supposed to usher in a new breed of leaders
who had integrity and who could professionally steer
this country out of the rot of the last five decades.
Instead, we got parliamentarians who are even more
uncouth and immoral than their predecessors, and
will not hesitate to pass laws that reverse all the
gains the country has made so far.
We got a brand new Judiciary, only to discover that it
has been “vomiting on our shoes”, as pointed out by
activist Maina Kiai, by giving themselves ridiculously
obscene allowances. (READ: )
The reality is that we did this to ourselves. We did
not remove the rot. We let the termites eat us from
inside. And look what has happened? The roof of our
house has collapsed.
I believe that the government is seriously thinking of
introducing a “ten-cell” system in which neighbours
will be encouraged to spy on each other and report
any suspicious activities to the police. Apparently,
this is the government’s response to terrorism.
Instead of reforming our security and immigration
services and ending corruption, we are being asked
to police each other.
In a society like Kenya, which is so ethnically divided,
this kind of snooping will lead to witch-hunting.
Communities that want “outsiders” to leave their
neighbourhoods will start labelling them as
terrorists. Is this where we want to go as a society?
I also understand a memorial is being built in Karura
Forest for the Westgate victims.
This is a laudable idea but wouldn’t it be better to
build the memorial at the site of the mall itself?
We know that the mall was controversially (and
possibly illegally) built on a wetland. Why can’t we
reclaim the area and build a public park on it with
lots of flowers and trees?
And while we are commemorating the dead why
don’t we also have a memorial for the over 1,100
people who were killed in the 2007/8 post-election
violence?That may be one way of putting their ghosts
to rest.

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