Saturday lunch time I was alternating between watching crap TV and washing dishes. My kids were off to a wedding and my husband asleep on the sofa. I decided to check Facebook on my phone. I see a few posts from FB friends saying that they are not at Westgate Mall. One says he was there but is now safely home. I turn on the news and there it is- Westgate Mall in Nairobi has been attacked by terrorists. A mall I had lunch in last year when I attended the Storymoja Hay Festival.
As the day progresses and the horror of what has happened develops, I send messages to friends to see where they are. The Storymoja Hay Festival is on and many writers are in Nairobi during the attack. By evening I hear that all of the writers at Storymoja have been accounted for save for one poet. I go to bed hoping he is somewhere safe. Sunday morning I wake up to hear the worst news possibe- the poet Kofi Awoonor has been killed at the mall.
As I write this, the horrific attack is not yet over. So many people dead and injured, so many lives knocked tragically off course. I wonder how Kenyans will continues after all of this. I wonder about the Storymoja organisers and how they will go on again next year. I'm not sure if I could just step forward bravely when such meaningless terror is out there.
For now, Kenyans should know that all of Africa is behind them, we mourn with them. In this case Africa maybe is a country, especially for its writing community.
Robala Ka Kagiso, Rre Awoonor.
Here is one of his last poems.