“Us vs. Them”

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Just some thoughts in the wake of the Sunday bombings in Kampala …

  • As anyone could have guessed, the responsibility of the Al-Shabaab military group for the bombings and loss of close to 80 lives has awakened some xenophobic sentiment against Somalis living in Kampala. In an interview with NTV last night, Ugandan residents of Kisenyi (a suburb heavily populated by Somali refugees) expressed anger and suspicion towards their Somali neighbours. The refugees on the other hand, stressed that they are innocent of the bombings and faced the same – and sometimes even worse – atrocities which forced them to leave their home country.

What surprises me even more though, is the sentiments expressed by some of my peers on Facebook. I suppose just because someone can type 200 words per minute and knows what the Internet is, doesn’t excuse them of ignorance and/or stupidity. To say things like  “we should smoke out the Somalis” or “Uganda should wage war on Somalia” or “okay we help yu with yo civil wars in yo weather damned desert country, give yu assylum in this beautiful pearl, yu even marry our women n yu give thanx by bombing us. okay no retreat no surrender, we to drive all these chaps out of here. dont support any of their enterprises n fire them at work, evict them on yo rentals, dont allow them entry anywhere; hospital restaurant, mosque, s/market. together tunawakilisha” … Seriously?

I suppose it’s just an opinion, just people saying ‘what’s on their minds’, but it’s a slippery slope from xenophobic opinion to xenophobic action – as the African foreigners in South Africa will tell you. For someone to say “all alshabab (sic) are somali, therefore any somali is probably alshabab” is very ignorant and irritating. I don’t think the average Kampalan knew much about the ongoings of Somalia before Sunday night’s tragedy, but it’s just lazy of people not to at least Google them before unleashing torrents of ignorance on Facebook.

That said, to argue any further I feel is to dishonour the dead and their bereaved families. I am very angry about these events, but for us to retaliate against the Somali community makes us no better than the Al-Shabaab themselves : committing horrible violence out of ill-informed passions.

  • The other thing that this tragedy has glaringly exposed (not that it was a secret) is the sheer lack of staff and equipment at our city’s main hospital in Mulago. Pictures of victims lying on the floor or being tended to in corridors, shortages of blood for transfusion, stories of the mortuary mixing up names and giving the wrong bodies to the wrong families…! As if they aren’t suffering enough!

 

  • On a more positive note, the country and Kampala especially has shown great solidarity over Sunday’s events, and a sombre mood hangs over the city. Many bars were closed last night and Monday, maybe partly out of fear, but I believe partly from respect for the dead and grieving.
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7 responses »

  1. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had murderous thoughts–that was my first expression of feeling–bomb ’em all! And quite frankly, in that moment of anger, sadness, and despair, I didn’t give a damn if the people we struck out against were innocent or not, I wanted retribution and I wanted it fast and bloody. Of course, the anger eventually morphed into simply sadness and despair. Maybe for some of those people, their sentiments (if ignorant) are still simply expressions of grief. When the cloud clears, hopefully, we/ they will be able to treat the Somali refugees as innocents too. I can’t help thinking though, somebody has got to pay for the loss of those lives. I would feel no compunction at all if the Al-Shabab responsible were routed and blown to pieces.

    • Of course I want the Al Shabaab responsible to pay in exact measure for what they’ve done. Hell, the world would be a much better place if Al Qaeda fundamentalists could just die!
      But if anything I fear that the bereaved people and Kampalans in general are still shellshocked from Sunday, and when that clears, Somali refugees (innocent and not)will be the target for a shitload of anger and grief.
      If we can get an anti-xenophobia message out BEFORE that happens, I think we’ll be better off.

  2. I have spent the last couple of days reading alot that has been written(expressed) on this matter I think the government should have sent out a warning to the public about the threats(but blame games won’t bring my friends back) We need more than ever to stand as one and back somalia imagine ordinary people go through these bombings everyday!and we need to be more vigilant, i guess as ugandans we had become very lax as far as security is concerned. Evil exsists because of the lack of good. For God and My Country.

    • That’s true. Especially now it’s being reported that these terrorists had made clear threats weeks before the attack, security should have been beefed up at crowded places, they should have issued guidelines.

      I am very sorry about the loss of your friends 😦

  3. Heard a story yesterday about a Somali woman in a bank being pulled out of the line, jeered and searched. I understand people are angry, but what are we achieving by taking it out on Somali men and woman here in Uganda because they were fleeing the very same violence? Makes us look just as ugly if you ask me

  4. You’ll be surprised how many morons out there masquarade as decent people. Somalis are not al shabaab. Any decent person knows this. And any decent will agree that the al shabaab types should be hunted down. That is all i wish to state.

    • Indeed. What I was trying to point out is that a lot of Al Shabaab are not Somali, this military group transcends nationality and so it’s pointless and cruel for us to target all Somali refugees for violence.

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