The 7th of April, is the International Day of Reflection and the Rwanda Embassy in Kenya was commemorating the Rwanda genocide, it has been 24 years. Many of us were too young to even recollect what happened on that day. Even more of us were not yet born. But we relive the stories through our scanty regional historical information. We seemed to be able to cram when African countries gained independence in primary school, from formidable Ethiopia that was never colonized, to Ghana starting us off with Nkrumah but we seem to omit African history on civil wars and the changes that they brought because a country can never be the same after war.
Let us reflect, in 1994, Kenya was one of the first countries to accept refugees from Rwanda and we did not stop there. Any civil war that has occurred at our borders, we have allowed refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and so on to flock to refuge first and concerned with documentation and security later. Currently in Moyale, refugees from Ethiopia are coming through the borders by the hundreds in search of safety from the hostility in their home country. Having open borders has been a benefit to hundreds of thousands but unfortunately, it also cost us with attacks from terrorist groups like Al- Shabaab. We have witnessed horrific terror attacks, that until today have planted such painful images in our memories from as early as the 90’s with the American Embassy bombing then more recently to WestGate Mall and Garissa University.
When it was first aired that a 700 Km wall would be built at our border from Somalia, it sounded like a figure of speech. But the wall was literal, as a matter of fact 8km has already been constructed. But what does a wall do to the people? A wall may not be a simple structure as we may think. My father comes from a border town, and growing up, I remember buying groceries in Uganda. We even have family members who live on the Ugandan side of the border. Sometimes when we are in my father’s village home, we are charged for roaming on our networks because we are just too close to the border. I cannot imagine what a wall would do to our way of life. In the case of Mandera, there are school going children from Somalia who receive education in Mandera. Now with the wall – all that must change.
See Kenya has changed, and she has changed a great deal. We always had a heart for accepting the “unwanted” and worrying about the costs later. Previously, we have also witnessed the sudden shutdown of Dadaab camp. International organization’s actually thought that the government was bluffing when they first caught wind of the closure. Dadaab camp has been existence for over twenty years, and nicknamed the ‘tented city’. Not that people are to stay in camps for the rest of their lives, but transitional methods were necessary for the move, but our heart for people seemed to have turned cold..
Let us now reflect on our own citizens, those who belong to the country called Kenya. After the Miguna Miguna saga, I remember watching analysts and leaders debate, questioning why Miguna had to be so dramatic, and some actually justifying that he was drugged and taken back to Canada literally by force. Miguna Miguna is a citizen – he was born here, there is no one who can change that ever – citizenship by birth cannot be revoked. So when we watch an individual forcefully pushed on a plane to leave the place he calls home, what else is disrespected? We have watched police brutality on our screens and innocent people losing their lives, media getting shut down and a major reshuffle in the industry and omission of court orders by powerful officials, trampling the constitution and practicing impunity.
When we used to be so open to our neighbors…thousands of people who were not born here are able to call it home, while an individual who was born here, we question his legitimacy as a citizen. Our borders remain “open” but its fate remains unknown.