“ . . . the U.S. Embassy in Kenya has received credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks.”—Front Page of Daily Nation, October 24, 2011
I linger over death, funeral, and memorial announcements in the Daily Nation. “Gone too Soon,” “In Loving Memory,” “Celebration of Life,” “Celebration of a Life Well Lived.” Deaths are “untimely,” “sudden,” loved ones at the mercy of “God’s will,” even as they are “Promoted to Glory.” Announcements are webs of connection: one worked at, was related to, accomplished. One received feeling—love, gratitude, even rage, if one reads between the lines. Accompanied by pictures—I am entranced by the blurry out of focus ones—these announcements make life matter. As we gaze upon their very public appearance, strangers in photographs acquire histories; their lives accrue meaning; they become legible. If only for a moment, the announcements of grief create powerful sites of identification, rich moments of stranger sociality. The dead speak to and with the living.
An image from Thomas Glave’s “The Torturer’s Wife”:
There are thousands and thousands and thousands of hands all over the garden . . . Hands all over the place . . . They all fell down last night in the rainstorm . . . A rainstorm of hands clattering all over the roof and keeping me up last night. Some of them are already . . . are already becoming, becoming – Becoming skeletal.
At JKIA, a Somali woman sees me, smiles at her companion, identifies me as family, begins to ask me a question, but not in English. I smile regretfully, cursing my limited languages, confess that I am not Somali: I just look like one. She smiles again and agrees that I look like one.
I recount this incident to my mother: she tells me to start speaking Gikuyu loudly in public. I have no way to respond. And certainly no smiles to share.
Ethnic chauvinism is being fed and strengthened. A stream of stories begin to coalesce, to justify this war, because Al Shabaab-Somalis are threatening.
They steal birth certificates from legitimate Kenyan children.
Living in Eastleigh, in a “nation within a nation,” they refuse to assimilate.
They skirt immigration laws and threaten belonging.
They have too much money, probably from selling weapons.
They are threatening our tourist industry.
Never subtle anti-Somali sentiment is getting bolder, even as our leaders tell us that this is a war against Al Shabaab, not Somalia or Somalis. I wonder if the bombs being dropped are as discriminating in their tastes.
We seem to have one color code and it’s green: go and kill, is the command.
As I read the language of “credible threat,” my worlds collapse and coalesce, sutured by the U.S. and its desires. What has the U.S. taught Kenya to desire? How have we taken up that desire and acted on it? I say this not to blame the U.S.—it is the Kenyan army running around Somalia. But one cannot ignore the shape and sound of our war-advancing rhetoric: Made in the U.S., circulated globally, consumed locally.
Grenades are exploding in Nairobi.
U.S. citizens have been warned to stay away from malls and similar public places. The U.S. Embassy has said Al Shabaab will target foreigners, that is, not Kenyans.
Comments in the newspapers are advocating profiling. The enemy is being compared to dogs. Learn from the U.S., some are saying. Secure the Border.
Govt needs to implement an address system. Your ID should show your address which is your street and house number. –Refugee camps should be guarded like military barracks (More soldiers) –Security guards should be given guns. –Build NYS camps along our borders-make students do border patrol(teach them military skills + IT, Programming, Engineering, nursing and Medicine).
kenya needs a patriotic act, just like the one of u.s. its time for this somalis to go back to there country.immigration department should also be held accountable .Any documentation issued to somalis after 2007 should be repealed.
Kenyans why are we beating about the bush? The fact remain that all Somailis in Kenya are al-shaabab. The only language they understand best is for them to be driven back Somalia. Kenyans, we need peace and this is the time we all need to be in solidarity, join hands, support our brilliant and brave soldiers to protect our boundaries with Somilia and also with Migingo Islands. Enough of our neighbours invading our motherland with impunity.
In the cause of national defense, there is no such thing as hate speech or incitement to violence. The newspapers are fueling paranoia and hatred. Kenyans are being called to be Kenyans: support the war, be a real Kenyan.
Dispatch, 1897, from Commander / Jackson, British
Army in Kenya. On resistance of Nandi people / to British
invasion: “ . . . the ignorance / of the people is so extreme / that
it is impossible to convey / to such savages that the occupation
of their country / is not harmful to them . . .” (Shailja Patel, “Notes from a Lost Country”)
A world of shared banalities can be a basis for sociality, or an exhausting undertow, or just something to do.—Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects
What might it mean to share the banality of war as the basis for sociality?