Open letter to our troops in Somalia: We are hurt, bleeding but not afraid
Posted Thursday, May 31 2012 at 20:00
My dear sons and daughters.
I know you are busy; war is hard work. But I thought I should take a few minutes, as an older man, to address two important issues which I am sure have exercised your minds as you man the ramparts in the outposts of conflict.
I was sitting in my office the other day, quietly minding my own business, when I heard the sound of a bomb.
I have been around for a while and I have had the misfortune to hear the sound of one or two bombs.
It is unmistakeable. In your head, you see the funnel blast of air, the fist that kills, maims and breaks.
I sat there for a moment or two, searching my own feelings about what I was certain was terrorist attack no more than 100 metres from where I sat. I felt no fear, no despair. But at the pit of my belly was a gathering sediment of fury.
Later, when I joined the hundreds of other foolish citizens of my home city gawping at the fire engines and the ambulances taking the broken and the bloodied to hospital, the feelings were the same: no fear, just anger. The most popular comment, “This is now too much.”
This is the message I bring to you from your compatriots, the people for whom you fight: We are hurt and bleeding. But we are unafraid and furious. We do not bear arms and we do not know how to fight. But we know you have guns, big guns, and you understand how to use them.
Next time you go out on your patrols and you confront the execrable Al-Shabaab, please give them this little message from us.
The second thing I wanted to address is best exemplified by a dispatch by a Mr Peter Martell.
Reporting on the Somalia mission, Mr Martell wrote: “African Union troops will seize the last key bastion of Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents within three months, Kenya’s army chief boasted Wednesday, as pressure mounted on the Islamists.”
The reporting verb in the opening statement of that story, “boasted”, drips with the patronising contempt that so many feel for our armed forces.
Our friends in the region think you are a “career army”, too wedded to the set-piece conventional approach to be effective in modern warfare.
But we, the people of Kenya, do not share their opinions. We know that people might see tribal, personalised, armies as fighting for ideology, not careers. We prefer professionalism to “ideology”.
Besides, we know you better than these naysayers. We know the fighting stock from which you come; we know you are braver, stronger and, even more important, smarter and better resourced than the enemy.
Pay no attention to the politicians, some of whom are defective human beings incapable of patriotism or of loving anyone, or anything, but themselves.
They have no understanding of sacrifice and service. It is not for them that you fight, but for the 40 million Kenyans who do their best every day to make this a better place for us all.
So the setting off of a bomb in our homeland has neither demoralised nor frightened us.
We are still the same querulous, irrepressible, hard-working, corrupt, nyama choma- and Tusker-loving lot.
We love you and honour you for your courage and sacrifice. Please get the job done quickly and come back home safe.
* * * *
Devolution is going to offer us an opportunity to resolve a basic conflict in our economic thinking.
If you have bought land at the Coast or Rift Valley, you think of yourself as an investor who is pumping his savings into that region to create wealth and jobs.
You regard yourself as having done something important to benefit not just yourself but others as well.
To the “locals”, though, you are a foreign invader who has taken their land and jobs. You are lumped together with Kanu-era grabbers who took what was not theirs.
How we resolve this conflict will determine the political and economic future of our country.
My own belief is that any honest Kenyan with honest money ought to be able to safely invest it in any part of the country; that no man, living or dead, has the right to redistribute what I have sweated for.
Anyone who thinks we should redistribute property should start with his own.