Dec 9, 2021

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

What prison break speaks of Kenya’s national culture

Last week, three convicted terrorists fled a maximum security prison in Nairobi.

One of the fugitives was involved in the 2015 attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people most of them students. Words cannot express the pain of the parents who are asked to collect the bodies of their dead children. But it wasn’t just the parents who felt this deep, relentless pain. People around the world lit candles to commemorate the murdered children. The reason for this international solidarity is that nothing embodies our optimism about the future but the youth.

When the terrorists murdered the students in Garissa, they killed our collective optimism about the future.

The attack, like others, something thoroughly human has hurt and, as the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre might say, put us in a state of existential fear. Hope, optimism, the feeling that life could have a purpose, were also sacrificed with Garissa.

In Kenya we do not seem to fully understand our characteristics and our attitude towards our dysfunction as a country and how these properties can nonetheless lead to a failed state. So let me break it down as they say on the street. The officials who made it possible failed to understand that they were not guarding chicken thieves, bar thugs, or weed smokers, crimes that should not result in imprisonment in the first place.

They guarded people involved in the killing of more than 100 children involved. They guarded people who had hurt something deeply rooted in us. Therefore, the guards, the prison commanders, the security service and the ministers, our entire national security system should have seen guarding these terrorists as a sacred duty; not only to honor the young people who were so mercilessly murdered, but also to say: “Our future is intact”; to reaffirm our humanity. That’s not all. If these escaped terrorists kill again, which they will certainly do if they are not recaptured, then the blood of those who will die will rest on the above officials and on all of us, for it is we, the increased negligence, Abbreviations and deceit and theft have become a national culture.

In the same week that this gross negligence occurred, a public service car rolled over in Siakago, killing 11 people. The vehicle did not have a PSV license and was declared unfit to drive by the National Transport and Safety Authority in 2020.

How did this fatality get through the police checkpoints for so long? For 40 pieces of silver, someone was compromised, just as in the case of the escaped terrorists.

There have been allegations that some of the terrorists who were involved in previous attacks came into the country because of compromised border security.

Aren’t all of these signs that our culture of negligence, abbreviations, thieves, and deceit drives us into the abyss?

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator

This article was first published in TheEastAfrican on November 20, 2021.