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.