after #kasaraniconcentrationcamp

We have entered the “after” of #kasaraniconcentrationcamp. The tweets protesting it have slowed down; the few political figures who seemed to oppose it have gone silent; the urgency with which its wrongness was felt and proclaimed seems to have faded; and the updates on police harassment and extortion have slowed to a trickle. All of this is not bad. The very successful #kasaraniiftar managed to get access to those held in Kasarani and provided much-needed information on those held there. I believe there are court cases challenging the legality of the entire operation. And the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) Monitoring Report On Operation Sanitization Eastleigh Publically Known As “USALAMA WATCH” has raised important questions about police (mis)conduct, though we are yet to see how, and whether, this report will be implemented.

As far as I know, #usalamawatch is ongoing, and so the “after” of after #kasaraniconcentrationcamp cannot be understood as cessation. Instead, it might be more properly understood as a normalization of the sentiments and practices that led to and sustain #kasaraniconcentrationcamp: anti-Somali sentiment, anti-terrorist hysteria, intense islamophobia, police overreach (a euphemism for police harassment, intimidation, extortion, and violence), legislative inability (or unwillingness) to defend constitutionally-guaranteed rights, the ignoring of constitutionally-granted rights, the intensifying securitization of everyday life, and the ongoing unhumaning of those the state deems disposable. To this list, we might add the ongoing criminalization of refugees and IDPs, who are now perceived as drains on national resources and obstacles to “development.”

The “after” of after #kasaraniconcentrationcamp has not left us feeling any more secure. If anything, it has deepened ethno-religious cleavages and consolidated ethno-nationalist solidarities. It has made Kenya and Kenyan-ness more fraught, more contested, even more unachievable.

What does one do when one is rejected by the place one calls home?

Now, strangers in uniform search us as we enter grocery stores, churches, train stations, events held on public grounds. Kenya has become a wand nation. Many of us stand behind these procedures, convinced that wand-induced paranoia will save us from the unhumaning we displace onto others. That we submit to wanding means that others should submit to #kasaraniconcentrationcamp, to the state’s arbitrary invasion and ongoing unhumaning. These become, somehow, equivalent operations. After all, Kenya Must Be Protected. Security Starts With Us!

The securityantiterrorist wrapping with which #kasaraniconcentrationcamp has been presented to the world has been so successful that the possibility of international intervention is slim to none. But this has seemed less significant to me than the ongoing silence of many Kenyans with platforms. For some, it appears #kasaraniconcentrationcamp is simply one more item on a long list that demonstrates this government is inefficient. This stance unsees the labor of unhumaning undertaken by #kasaraniconcentrationcamp. For some, it appears that because the “prison” was legally gazetted by the Inspector General of the Police, it has a legal status that, say, the torture chambers at Nyayo House did not. This technical legality suggests that #kasaraniconcentrationcamp is “not as bad” or is “legal.” And this stance should compel us to think more deeply about legal strategies of unhumaning, and what it means that we can legalize unhumaning.

The “after” of after #kasaraniconcentrationcamp includes the physical and psychic tolls on those arrested, those harassed, those intimidated, those whose bodies have been weakened by apprehension and disease, those whose spirits have been wounded by an indifferent state, those whose notions of belonging and safety have been destroyed. It includes new silences about memories one prefers not to have. It includes dirges for those who have died and for stillborn hopes.

The after of after #kasaraniconcentrationcamp is a new quotidian in which the fact of holding fellow humans in unhumaning conditions is taken as banal, inevitable, and even praiseworthy. We have yet to assess what this banal unhumaning means given that it has taken place under a new constitution that was, ostensibly, supposed to prevent unhumaning. It might be that a constitution meant to prevent another Moi regime cannot cope with a moment of global securitization, in which case #usalamawatch and #kasaraniconcentrationcamp are presents:futures the constitution makers could never have conceived. Certainly, the ongoing assaults against the constitution have sapped energy and will from many who fought for it, and #kasaraniconcentrationcamp takes place as many are exhausted, frustrated, disheartened, but still willing to dream of presents:futures other than this one.

If, for many of us, the post-election violence (PEV) marked a major shift in how Kenya could be imagined, I would argue that #kasaraniconcentrationcamp is equally as significant: if the aftermath of PEV was dedicated to finding ways to value lives, it might be that #kasaraniconcentrationcamp marks the precise moment when a formal intention to value life was rendered irrelevant, when unhumaning became central to a development-centered project Kenya.

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