Letter from America #5, October 3, 2011

I started writing my Letter from America in September 2011. the last one I posted, my 7th, was on October 15th, but as I want all my letters posted, I’m going backwards. Below you will find my 5th.


By Margaretta wa Gacheru, October 3, 2011

When I read that the local Kenyan authorities had been “caught off guard” by the kidnapping of  the 66 year old French woman Marie Dedieu from her home on Manda Island, I recalled that the same phrase was used when US authorities were struggling to explain how the 9/11 downing of the Twin Towers on another island—Manhattan Island—could have taken place.

In both instances, the warning signs had been out there for days, weeks, even months in advance of the actual incident. What we know how about the infamous 9/11 tragedy is that there were trackers inside the CIA who had been observing the activities of men associated with Osama bin Laden for many months before the four planes were hijacked in 2001 and the dirty deeds of that day took place.

Why nobody bothered to listen to their warnings is all a matter of conjecture today. Getting the bottom of who did what and why may never be achieved in the American incident. There are still lots of ‘conspiracy theorists’ who claim 9/11 was “an inside job”; others who insist that Osama was the master mind behind the terrible tragedy in 1998 when the US Embassy was bombed and hundreds of Kenyans were killed, maimed, and family lives shattered up to this day. Again, no one can be absolutely sure about who did what and why.

In all these incidents, the authorities have been quick to call the culprits “terrorists” rather than criminals; but that claim came even before investigations got under way.

In the Kenyan case, people are already claiming that the meaty Gang of Ten was Al Shabaab. Not just Somali pirates feeding off the fat of the land, but terrorists which makes them members of a global network of “Islamic extremists” who may soon be hunted down in the context of the global “war on terror”, which still exists despite the fact that US President Barack Obama canned that term.

Still the dynamics of the global war started by George W. Bush in reaction to the events of 9/11/2001 are still in play on the planet, which means the coming days could be unprecedented for Kenya.

Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall for the Kenyan authorities a long time ago, and my heart goes out to the country for its having a border with that leaderless country that the global community ‘forgot about’ years ago. If Somalia had oil like Iraq or Saudi Arabia or even Libya, Somalia wouldn’t have been evacuated of US troops in the early 1990s as the former US President Bill Clinton did. Evacuating the oil-less Somalia led to Clinton also ignoring the horrific genocide of a million Rwandese people in 1994.

Clinton subsequently “apologized” for the “oversight” but the issue of neglect for human rights in Africa is a major issue that will have to be addressed in days to come. For now, I am only trying to point out that the men who abducted Marie Dedieu may or may not have been “terrorists” in the sense of being members of a terrorist organization linked for instance with the one said to be based in Yemen.

Without doubt, the kidnappers are criminals who have terrorized and spooked the wealthy tourist community that has camped out on their Indian Ocean getaway, home-away-from-home for quite some time. They don’t need to be members of Al Shabaab to have scared off tourists who must have known for many months that it was only a matter of time before pirates decided to shift their focus from their lucrative oceanic escapades to looting on land, especially on remote island getaways like the idyllic Valhalla called Manda Island.

I don’t mean to throw a wet towel on Kenyan tourism because I will be the first person to speak about the incredible beauty of the land. I could write advertising copy about the multiplicity of majestic views that tourists ought to treat themselves to in Kenya, although I probably would have put a caveat long ago on the far northern coastline of Kenya where there is practically no way to police the pirating practices of lawless Somali pirates. I would only ask: How come Interpol and all the other international policing organizations haven’t come out and put a stop to the flagrant lawlessness of Somali pirates??

I hear a number of the pirate gangs have criminal master minds based right there in Eastleigh, where pirate loot is helping to build fantastic high-rise hotels and grocery stores, which can rival any shop to be found in the city centre or Karen or Muthaiga or Westlands.

So I pray Ms. Dedieu is not a sacrificial lamb who signals the tremendous need for Kenyan cops to wake up and work with global partners to stop criminality at the Coast and off the Coast as well.

Sadly, it’s also ironic that it was on another 9/11 – approximately one month ago, that the first white woman, Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped from the same Kenyan coast. Let us pray that these events don’t have the same catastrophic effect on Kenya, especially the Kenyan economy that 9/11 has had on the US.


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