Fireworks

2007 Post- election violence, Kenya.
In 2007 my mum,brothers and I were living in Mombasa, a northern coastal city in Kenya. My brothers were in South Coast for the remainder of the Christmas Holiday and my mum and I were at home on New Years Eve when we heard the news that people from a different tribe were coming to our neighbourhood to search and kill people from our tribe. My mum, our maid and I were the only members of the Kikuyu tribe in the whole neighbourhood. In short, they were coming for us. We quickly left home and checked into a hotel for the night. Being New Years Eve, the hotel had organised a party with fireworks to celebrate the new year. The turmoil that was going on beyond the walls of the hotel was completely ignored and we watched the bright lights from the fireworks and basically forget the reason we were at the hotel rather than in the comfort of our own home. My mum wished me happy new year, my maid wished me happy new year, but I didn’t wish myself a happy new year because I didn’t know if it would be a happy new year. The next morning we heard that nothing had happened. Our neighbourhood was still safe.
Even though I was physically safe, mentally, I was far from that. Twelve years old and finally getting to know that people would do anything for their “leaders” was a harsh reality to grapple with. The realisation of tribalism in Kenya came as a shock to me during this violence. The two political parties ODM and PNU had followers from opposing tribes, both fighting for what they “believed” in. But how can you literally fight for what you believe in; unless you believe in violence. (Using one belief for the sake of another should be passed on as disrespect.) I remember thinking that I would never idolise someone to the point of mass destruction. Yes, mass destruction. People would and will cause chaos and unnecessary genocide for their idols. From President Nasser and the Suez War to Malcolm X and the Race Riots, people are constantly committing murder that is honoured because “its war”. When a person kills someone on the road, they’re arrested; but when men kill hundreds on the battle field it’s accepted. To me it’s all the same, murder is murder; From Somalia to Vietnam, people are still losing they’re lives. People are always trying to advocate peace with war but passing it on as “belief.”
That night of January 1st 2007, I lay in my bed thinking that even though nothing happened to me, even though I got to see the fireworks and pretend that nothing happened and that people were not dying; even though I did not have a dramatic story of being locked in a burning house waiting to be killed, I still lived in a world were madness ruled. This bubble that I was in popped and reality set in. I made a promise to myself that night that I would never become a monster, using my belief in something as a shield, protecting me from anyone who says that what I’m doing is disgusting. I would never compromise my life for something. I would make my own decisions, I would live.
Cherie Kihato

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