Westgate: Recommended Reading (Tributes, Questions & Debates)

Saturday’s attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall led to a flurry of web activity on all forms of media, from the traditional channels of disseminating and analyzing related information as it streamed in. Amidst this swift deluge of content revolving around live updates, tributes to victims, reflections discussions, debates and discussions that would’ve have easily been missed, we have compiled a small list of some of the stuff worth reading (again). You are free to add other links to stuff we may have missed in the comments section down below, of course.

Right off the bat, Michael Onsando (twitter: @Woozie_M) in this article for Brainstorm KE tackles the immediate, and sometimes flawed, reactions to events such as the Westgate tragedy that exposes a mentality that tends to subtly alienate other Kenyans and regard them as somehow different from ourselves. Does it matter that majority of the country is Christian/African make the rest who subscribe to other religions or have light skin any less Kenyan?

“…it is extremely easy to identify a person who does not “belong” in a certain space. We have a created a very rigid definition of who a Kenyan is that anyone who does not directly fit that description can be spotted a mile away…With the rigorous protection every community does for itself there is an alienation of members who are attempting integration…We are all different and, because of that, we are all the same” _ Michael Onsando

Nation Media Group’s, Charles Onyango-Obbo (twitter: @cobbo3) in this post for his blog Naked Chiefs analyses how the world’s media framed the tragedy and how the reality of the position on the ground contradicted the stereotyping:

“The western media were telling their audiences that, “well, it is Africa alright, and ordinarily we wouldn’t bother you with this story, except that this time you should pay attention because westerners could have been killed”…Debased “otherness” enables us to ignore the pain of others and sleep soundly at night…” _ Charles Onyango-Obbo

As far as tributes go, the BBC’s pretty comprehensive coverage of the event also includes a country-by-country list of some of the victims who died, painting a vivid picture of the global extent of the Westgate terror Attack. You might also be interested in this similar list by the Daily Nation. I believe both lists are being updated as more information trickles in.

In addition there’s this great tribute of renowned Ghanian poet Prof. Kofi Awonoor who was in the country to participate in the Story Moja Hay Festival. The tribute by blogger Mugendi Nyagah (twitter: @IAmMugendi) in written in the context of a Master Class Prof. Awonoor had just the day before the Westgate attack entitled The Responsibility of the African Writer and sheds light into the poet;s life and philosophy:

“Here was a man who had written longer than my country had been independent. He represented a link with the past, with the age-old traditions of singing and performing poetry that are now classified dryly as ‘Oral Literature’…He was a man who found humour in everything, even in the fact that his name had been misspelt in the event programme.” _ Mugendi Nyagah

Perhaps the most popular documents right now is this very comprehensive Google Doc containing 85 questions by Kenyans to the government on issues regarding the Westgate attack. This has been necessitated by the very vague, shaky and contradictory manner government representatives have transmitted information through press briefings and tweets.  I believe the questions were aggregated by digital strategist and blogger Simeon Oriko (twitter: @mtotowajirani), correct me if I am wrong. You can comment on and add value to  the document via your Google account. 

Kellie Murungi (twitter: @RookieKE), through this Facebook Note re-posted on her blog, feels that in addition to just asking the difficult questions, this also time for a re-assessment of Kenyan society and in particular the middle class who feel far removed from the daily struggles of the ordinary lower class mwananchi. Are the middle class the last cog in the wheel that turns this country around for the better?:

“If PEV had been a middle class thing, if the violence happened in Kilimani or Karen (and other “rich” areas of our country) instead of Kibera and rural Rift Valley for example, would the perpetrators (whoever they are) be in jail today? Chances are, they would be….only the middle class can drive real change in the country.But then how do we fix it? How do we fix a country where an elected leader is busy CHASING BIRDS in Netherlands instead of leading HIS people?” _ Kellie Murungi

Finally, blogger @French_Freddy carries on from where Kellie leaves off and contends that there’s still a lot that has not changed since 21st September in this blog post:

“You still don’t know who you are; still can’t tell what you need from what you want. You will still sit on your arse and wait for the next tragedy – small or monumental, natural or otherwise. You will wait only for you to react; to say, to never think or act independently… And so tomorrow you will wake up. It may take longer than 24 hours, but tomorrow you will wake up…Indeed you will accept, you will move on, your choices will have no consequences” _ @French_Freddy