I witnessed the 2014 Al Shabaab attack in Mpeketoni in Lamu County, where people were butchered and many innocent lives were lost. Since then, I have never been the same again. The tragic episode keeps ringing in my mind.
Consequently, I have been depressed since my teenage years and the trauma hangs over my head like a dark cloud. Each time I hear an explosion near me, the memories of the 2014 attack come alive.
Over the years, I have interacted and shared stories with my age mates who lost their families in the attack. They tell stories of how people who wore police uniforms and covered faces knocked on their doors while brandishing guns and machetes.
They narrate how they were being asked about their religious affiliations. Depending on the feedback, the males in the households were roughed up, hands tied with ropes and heads chopped off in the full glare of the female occupants.
These gory sights were traumatizing to those of us who were young then. Townhouses were razed down and people displaced. We spent sleepless nights in the forest as the houses were no longer safe. Out there, it was hostile. You could encounter wild animals roaming in the vicinity, including snakes.
I remember so well, people who preferred to climb trees and spend nights there. When morning came, we were still required to go to school. In that environment, nothing made sense in class. We could not concentrate. As the lessons went on, our minds wandered about where would spend our nights after school. There was nothing to eat for many families. Parents and children suffered the same fate. Others fled the area to the upcountry, but even the exodus was not the answer as buses were being attacked along the way. Some got sanctuary at the nearest schools.
Here again, we are in 2022, and the vicious cycle seems to rear its ugly head again. Innocent people are being killed. I see on social media, the frustrations and lamentations of residents who can’t get peace in their homesteads.
But my concern is about the children. They are going through the same unfortunate scenario I went through, together with my age mates. Theirs is a miserable life. They are living on a knife-edge, not knowing what happens next or who will be the next victim. I strongly feel that these innocent children, just like my generation, will grow up a depressed lot.
Their future is at stake. Hatred has taken over a once peaceful place. And this is compounded now by the political season we have set in. Everyone will try to exploit the fault lines in Lamu for political mileage. So much so that we can no longer know the truth about the attacks.
The Government is doing all it can to secure the people, which is very encouraging. But most importantly, the historical land problems in the area need to be addressed fully, if any meaningful peace is to be realized.
It must consider issuing title deeds to genuine landowners, but also look into the challenge of squatters or else innocent people will continue losing their lives. Children will continue to carry the weight and scars of the trauma, and may never know any other life other than that. This may have lasting consequences on their future and the future of Lamu.
There is an urgent need for psychotherapy interventions in the area once peace is restored, to help the children grow as normal human beings and to be the best they can be in a country they love and which in turn cares for them.
Politicians must be at the centre of seeking lasting solutions to the issues at hand, instead of fanning the fire for selfish political gains.
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