Westgate: Blowback

Image by Wambui Mwangi.


Baidoa, Baadheere, Baydhabo, Dinsur, Afgooye, Bwale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayo and Afmadhow will be under attack continuously. The Kenya Defence Forces urges anyone with relatives and friends in the ten towns to advise them accordingly. We are doing well on the battle front, continue praying for us.

– Major E. Chirchir, Kenya Military Spokesman, Operation Linda Nchi, November 2011

I touch walls and sweaters and keyboards
as if they bruise easily
I do not want to be touched
in these charred and sizzling days
when all flesh
is frangible

killing killing killing killing
repeated enough it’s almost

If there? They are
enemy. The innocent
were warned. No old,
no infirm, no children, no sick,
disabled, starving, pregnant
in our war.

al-shabaab al-shabaab al-shabaab al-shabaab
repeated enough it’s almost

Where do you run
when borders are closed
when sky rains death
when all paths lead
to conflagration?

crush them crush them crush them crush them
repeated enough it’s almost

Under continuous attack
clear the land
leave nothing
to claim, nothing
to return to.

Leave no one alive
to tell.

attack attack attack attack
repeated enough it’s almost

I give you
ten towns. Take
Athi River, Machakos, Ongata Rongai
Ngong, Kikuyu, Mombasa
Take Naivasha, Thika, Kisumu

Kijabe they will be under attack
continuously advise
your relatives and friends there

linda nchi linda nchi linda nchi linda nchi
repeated enough it’s almost

The ones still there
are enemy. All who die
are enemy. We are doing well
we guarantee success
pray for us.

pray for us pray for us pray for us pray for us
repeated enough it’s almost

This poem appeared in the East African, November 2011

Image by Wambui Mwangi.


On civilian deaths, Kenya should first be asked why they bombed innocent Somali civilians in refugee camps, why they bombed innocent people in Gedo and Jubba regions. If they don't withdraw, attacks like this will become common in Kenya.

– Al-Shabaab spokesperson, Al-Jazeera, September 22, 2013

we will not
our grief

our grief may not
be branded for profit

an eight-year old is an eight-year old is an eight-year old
Wagalla is Waziristan is Westgate

a pregnant woman is a pregnant woman is a pregnant woman
Garissa is Kismayo is Nairobi

blood is blood is blood is blood is blood
the stupid, the venal, the cruel inherit the earth

we withhold our grief
from the merchants of death

our grief will not be harnessed
to engines of war

take everything else
this is ours

our grief
is not
open for business