Sunday, 29 September 2013

A letter from Kenya

 I received this letter via the father of a Kenyan White Farmer, a close and dear friend whose children still live in darkening Africa.  I perhaps should not say he is white, but we are so over sensitised that race and colour have become a byword for hate instead of fact.
I will send this on to Gordon Marsden MP but he will not reply, to give him first hand copy of what the people of Kenya are going through.  There will be much talktalk in Westminster and little sense, but I do hope that my friend's epistle strikes a nerve on a Party that took us to Wars on Dodgy Disinformation.

I have redacted some parts to protect the identity of a thoroughly decent man and his lovely family.

Hello friends,

This afternoon it seems as if terrorists have attacked one of Nairobi’s fancy malls and mayhem ensues in the best African tradition. This Westgate Mall has for some years now been considered a prime spot for an attack by terrorists, frequented as it is by UN operatives, embassy staff and the more affluent type of Nairobian. Time will tell just how severe this siege will prove.  Certainly, it’s been on the cards for some time. So much so, I’m a little surprised that the cameras were not already recording the event even as it was initiated. I’m less surprised that it took the police fully 30 minutes to respond to the crisis. The traffic in Nairobi goes beyond my paltry abilities to describe it. 

Just over a month ago some of you might have noticed that the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport burned down. I was on my way towards the airport industrial at about 6am area even as the first ambulances went screaming past at 60km/h on their way to fetch the first of the (mercifully few) casualties. Apparently a rather modest fire had started in the International Arrivals area at about 4am. We still don’t know why. The last major flight having landed and been processed some hours earlier, the on-site firemen, as is their inexplicable habit, had knocked off and disappeared into their various warrens situated around Nairobi. No other emergency staff was available and the poor janitors left in command of the airport were unfamiliar with the expired fire extinguishers and so the blaze was allowed to run un-checked until such time as the fire brigade could be roused from their snug beds in Nairobi and taken to the airport in taxis. To complicate proceedings it seems that several of the fire-engines had been sold off to pay for servicing debts. The few remaining functional ones were initially kept out of the fray for fear of making them dirty because it was, you see, National Fire Awareness Week that particular week and, so we’re told, the engines had been earmarked to participate in a parade through town later on that same day. In truth though, the destruction of that airport has done us all a great favour and we may hope that if a new one is built, by whichever fortunate Chinese contractor is given that job, it is a functional one. 

On a more personal note I have been extremely busy at work. The entire management team (barring a few contented types) resigned from           en-masse and we have started our own export veg producing enterprise. My 30 pieces of silver include a bloody great V8 Toyota Landcruiser and a (small) share of the new company, g          Ltd. I’m not sure which is worth more.   We even made an offer to the current owners of            to buy out their company but, lamentably, it was not well received. Too bad. So now we must part ways with no lack of acrimony, muttered allegations of improper conduct and promises of legal action. I shake in my boots so that I can barely piss straight. But I am excited by the prospect of starting off this new business and so far things have gone well. We have a great team, ample investment, are making good progress in the market and our plantings look just dandy.

 29th Sept 2013

A week has passed since the horrific attack on the Westgate Mall. The opening paragraphs of this letter seem so trite, now we are beginning to learn of the full horror of the events surrounding the attack and subsequent siege. The attack has badly shaken all strata of Kenyan society, it seems that no matter who you talk to they know somebody who was either there at the Westgate Mall or is somehow indirectly affected by the events occurring since the 21st of September. For me a persistent feeling of dread and anxiety has taken root and seems in no hurry to leave, however positive I try to remain about the issue. And, why shouldn’t it? When you hear firsthand accounts of the mutilations of hostages, the systematic executions of children in front of their parents and such it’s only human, I think, to be affected by it. Only the inhuman amongst us could do such things or not be moved, one way or another, by the vileness of the attack.

 I know one man who died there. Ashish Shah was a spare parts trader in Nairobi. He was nothing less than a pleasure to deal with, his demeanor always professional, humourous and respectful. He could make things happen when his competitors couldn’t, or wouldn’t, and his small part in my life was and is well appreciated. He died after entering the Mall with a few of his friends, armed only with pistols, to try and get people out. It makes me sick that such decent people are taken and filth remains.

To make things worse, the much repeated slogan, repeated by the Kenyan PR machine assembled to put a gloss on this attack and the local authority’s response to it, that “we are one” rings hollow when you read of the behavior of the police and armed forces that were sent in to end the siege. It seems that some of the heroic and gallant members of the KDF preferred to loot the bodies of the dead and the up market stores in the mall, rather than face the admittedly difficult task of hunting down the killers.  Chaos still rules, bodies have not been released to kin, recrimination and allegations about the handling of the siege are beginning to be aired publicly between competing state organs. There is as yet absolutely no certainty just how many people were killed, nor, I think, will there ever be. But, such is life in Kenya. We accept it, for now, and hope it won’t happen to us. Forgive me if I seem bitter.

It’s not all bad; in truth the different communities which make up this country have come together. So many people lined up to donate blood that many were turned away. There is ample footage, however awful, showing people of all races helping each other where it was possible to escape or survive the attack. For now, the president is asking Kenyans to remain unified and not take out their anger against the large Somali population located throughout the country. Perhaps, by this show of solidarity, Kenya could yet show the world how the evil of extremist Islam may be defeated.

******* has now reached boarding age. We set up his bed and cupboard in his dorm at his school ******** and let him decide when he would want to start staying nights at the school. I was only a little perturbed when, after hesitating for a week, he climbed right in, insisting on staying at least twice a week. He was also the only kid on his dorm who howled when mom came to take him away home for exeat.  Perhaps the other parents think we beat him at home? 

Today we went for a short walk on the farm. It happened that the farm football team, the L****** K*********, were playing at home to a neighbouring farm and we stood on the sidelines to watch. The kids played tag with the hordes of raggedy workers kids, the dogs chased up and down. L***** scored from a penalty. Life, for the moment, seems quite normal. I sincerely hope that by the time I write another letter it will be rather less angry and more cheerful. I apologize if what is written here seems at any point offensive, it isn’t meant to be. But, I do feel, for reasons I can’t properly explain, that I should just send this out to you all. We are OK, the kids are happy and healthy and we will remember that we are lucky to be alive in this place, amongst these people.

I’d like to finish this letter with a completely irreverent thought, sent to me by a good friend in SA, “When you are dead you don’t know it. It is difficult only for the others. It is the same thing when you are stupid”.