I have been thinking about Kenya as I am sure have you, even though it may have been for just one fleeting moment. Indeed being a journalist the first thought that crossed by mind ( in fact always crosses my mind when any story breaks ) when I saw the breaking story on the BBC world news headlines early Thursday morning was to rush to the airport board the next plane to Kenya and start filing stories immediately. Since it was not possible to hop into a plane at that very moment, I started to think deeply about Kenya. I entered a place of meditation. I began to search my soul for the answers. I began to page through my memory book in the hope that I could find some piece of evidence, missing link, a clue, some piece of new or undiscovered information that could make this all fit logically into an equation we could all calculate and arrive at the same answer. During my internal investigation I was hoping to find a piece of luminosity in this large stew of blood, tears, grief and tragedy. My thoughts first went to the obvious. The Easter weekend; celebrated by both Orthodox Jews and Christians. The Jews call it Passover and it is a commemoration of a biblical event when God freed the Jews from their life of slavery in Egypt. He inflicted 10 plagues on Egypt the last one being the slaughter of all of Egypt’s’ first born children. Before doing that the lord instructed the Israelites/Jews to mark their homes with the blood of a spring lamb so that the Spirit of the lords would pass over their homes. Christians also mark the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his subsequent resurrections during Easter. While these Judeo-christian holiday celebrations may explain the timing of the attacks, these parallels however are counter-productive and do not contribute meaningfully to the political stand-off. Religious references in this case will only serve to en-flame an already volatile situation. So I had to look somewhere else. I began yet again to ask myself how I could write differently about a story which is being covered from every possible angle by all the major news networks around the world? What new information could I reveal about the situation in Kenya from my laptop in South Africa? What do I know about Kenyan politics, history and the events and contexts which have brought this and many other terrorists attacks to the country since the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The reasons for the 1998 attacks and those on the 2nd of April are not very different even though the organizations orchestrating them are. All of the terrorist attacks have been motivated by revenge and are connected by four countries; The United States, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya. The latter paying the price for it’s role as a broker and go-between. But everyone knows about east-African regional politics and the global Jihadist movement. What more can I offer to the general conversation. The more I stayed with the question, the more I delved deeper into my own personal archives in search of something more interesting and relevant, a piece of new information. While in the midst of my thoughts a startling fact revealed itself to me. At first I could not believe it you see, because the truth is often so unbelievably simple, you often continue to search for the answer even after it has been laid bare for you. The more I tried to search for what I consider to be an intelligent, erudite and lucid analysis of current events in Kenya, the more it became apparent to me that the story I needed to tell about Kenya was not a political one. The story I am meant to write has nothing to do with terrorism, death, Al-Qaeda or Al-Shabaab.
The first time I traveled to Kenya was in 2002. It was my maiden trip to a foreign country and my first flight ever. I was glad to be travelling in company with a friend and colleague MG, who made the experience so much more enjoyable. I was young, fresh and eager to absorb the newness of a new country and city. We had been invited by the United Nations Development Agency (UNDP) for a reporting workshop. But all I and our my colleagues wanted was to break out of the conference walls and experience the city and its people who were infinitely more interesting than the workshop. We did eventually find our way to the market place where MG was forced to literally hold my hand through the human traffic lest I be swept away by waves of people moving like the sea in all directions. My head was spinning just as fast. I found everything interesting, my curiosity was inflamed by the sights, sounds and smells of the city. It was a new form of intoxication one that I had never experienced before but I knew for sure I could never get enough of. It was a drunken rush of new experiences to my head. I wanted take it all in. Asante Sana. Jambo. Saying Hello and Thank you had never been so exhilarating. I looked forward to any and every opportunity of saying Asante, sana. I was inspired by the infinite possibilities of learning a new language. I wanted to stay.
It was such a heady experience all I managed to do in lieu of work while there was to take a sound recording of the city in the hope that one day the sounds could take shape and become words which I could one day use to return to that place over and over again. It was a silent interaction, where I did the listening. I never once wrote a story. This is a first.
I fell in love with the African continent in Kenya. I fell in love with life.
My second trip to Kenya was to visit a friend and colleague and pursue what I thought was a promising romantic prospect. I was not prepared for the loving warm reception I would receive from my friends’s friends. We danced like crazy, ate and laughed the weekend away. I was cloaked in-love from head to toe. All my frantic search for something new, for new facts and information have led me back to where I started in the first place.
My quest to write something led me to the very same conclusion that I reached the first time I arrived in Kenya. Words were not necessary.