We must put the ghosts of 2007/8 behind us.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
A skeletal hand scrabbles though the muck of forgetting. This year the maize tastes richer. Grazers seem more intelligent. They make terrified noises at night. The wind wails. We have yet to complete funeral rites. The ghosts are waiting.
I am seeking ghosts.
This is risky.
Ghosts lack clear memories, are outlets of emotion, repositories of bad affect. They do not know where to direct their anger. To the ghost, I am as culpable of murder as the hand that lifted the machete, set fire to the church, stood aside and watched.
It’s dangerous to face the anger of ghosts.
It’s even more dangerous to face the truths ghosts tell, “tongued with fire.”
Burning Kenya again.
Raising the temperature on our perpetual simmer. Creating hot spots that cannot and will not be governed by police forces who were silent and absent and complicit in 2007/8. The sizzle of then.
From the right angle, a whiff of rotting flesh.
Tomorrow the ICC judges rule on something that is by now irrelevant: whether the so-called Ocampo Six will face trial. It is irrelevant because two of the six are running for president—they have supporters and machinery—and have said, boldly, that the ICC’s ruling will not affect their presidential aspirations. It is irrelevant because Kenya, in its treatment of Bashir and its actions during the ICC process, has signaled its willingness to shield the six on the grounds that the ICC is racist and anti-African. It is irrelevant because at least four of the six are so intimately connected with Kenyan power that their downfall threatens root structures we can only imagine. It is irrelevant because the creation of the six as six erased the dead and displaced. We started talking about the six and, as our leaders implored, we forgot about the rest. We forgot the Kenya of rotting flesh and focused on the Kenya of gleaming cars. We were dazzled. Distracted. Forgot why the ICC mattered. Ignored the haunting ghosts.
I am seeking haunting ghosts.
They frighten me.
I am not brave.
This must be done.
After Samuel’s death, King Saul consulted the Witch of Endor and asked her to raise Samuel’s ghost. On rising, Samuel asked, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?”
The ghosts I seek come in waves of anger and rage—angry they have been forgotten, angry they died too young, angry that I refuse to let them rest. And still I seek them. Need to seek them. Listen for them in winter winds. Taste them in Kenyan food.
I am seeking ghost raisers—mediums who will risk their sanity, witches who will risk their lives, artists who will face the darkness. Kenyans who will face the darkness.
Not with the certainty of “never again.” Not with the bravado of “next time we will be prepared.” Not with the anxiety of plane tickets in hand to escape. Not with the comfort of faith or family. Not with the habits of living through troubled times.
Open to the madness of ghosts.
Open to memories that should never be owned.
Open to the lingering cries of the dying.
Of those we once called ours.