A man rides a motorcycle past a burnt petrol station and a charred building in Mpeketoni, Lamu County, on June 20, 2014. More than 60 people were killed over two days. PHOTO / JOAN PERERUAN >> NATION MEDIA GROUP
Article By : Peter Gaitho
“I have seen the script more times than I care to remember. A spark is lit in an unpretentious manner in a far-off outpost, just like Mpeketoni.
Two days later, the small embers generate some heat. 65 dead turn to 100, then 300. Before long, thousands are dead. Massive rapes, wanton destruction of property; the whole land is lit.
This is how it begins on social media; “Kill them, useless people,” “Hang all by the neck until they die,” “Circumcise them with a blunt knife,” “Washenzi, kill them all, your tribesmen think they are the best, we’ll finish them.” The vitriolic battle on Facebook and Twitter is real.
Soon enough, they generate enough heat, then hell breaks loose. The first victims are far off. Then the battle drums are beaten in your county, then in your district and ultimately in your neighbourhood.
Long before the battle reaches your village, you soon realize that you cannot access the nearest town, hakuna magari, hakuna unga in the shops. You cannot even get a Safaricom scratch card to buy internet bundles. So you are cut off from the social media. The same one you used and depended upon to “kill” your presumed enemies.
Before you know it, you escape death by a whisker, but with a deep cut on your right shoulder. No dispensary is open anywhere. No hospital either. The fight for your community’s right to be included in the government turns into a fight for your own life.
The leaders who egged you on are nowhere to be seen, or heard. They are watching events unfold in the safety of Sheraton Hotel by the Nile River, Uganda.
Humanitarian organizations hurriedly put up refugee camps. Maybe in a Catholic Church compound. Maybe the UNHCR has erected tents in Busia, Uganda, or Moyale, Ethiopia.
The UN compound in Nairobi is turned into a huge meeting place where all communities gather. And you end up in one of the camps.
Fighting for the few tents becomes the order of the day. A few rations reach your parched throat three days later. The gush on your right shoulder in gangrenous.
The overworked Medicines Sans Frontiers doctor is busy with a dying child next to your bed in a stinking, wet, humid tent hospital. There is wailing outside. You pray for death, but it takes its sweet time.
MASS, UNMARKED GRAVE
Anderson Cooper from CNN and his trademark black t-shirt have made it to your camp. The wide view camera catches you gnashing your teeth with high fever and bloody bandages over your right shoulder.
Your picture is seen worldwide, thanks to globalised, 24-hour media.
Omondi meets with Karanja and Omar and Werunga in the camp. They converse in low tones in Swahili wondering where the rain started beating them. They cannot remember when they last took a bath. They share a lone cigarette bootlegged into the camp by Mutiso.
In the meantime, in the Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, the political leaders hammer a truce negotiated by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn and the AU. They share out government positions.
But you cannot celebrate the truce. For you see, three days before it happens, you, together with 43 others, are buried in a mass unmarked grave 12 miles outside the refugee camp.
None of your relatives will ever learn of your fate. Your amputated right arm is food for the vultures and hyenas in the refugee camp dump site.
Yes, my fellow countrymen and women, war is real. It kills real people; it leaves real women widowed, real children orphans, real men maimed.
Before you click ‘Send’ on that bigoted, egotistical hate message on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, Think Twice.
Peter Gaitho is a PhD student in Communication Science at the University of South Africa (UNISA)