So timing last week was bad. First I got a bit rattled by the news of Camille Lepage’s death, then the presumption of safety in Nairobi was thrown into question.
Some things end up filtering out to the public. It’s now public knowledge that the UN has banned visitors to the compound. The US Embassy (across the street) has reduced their staff on site and increased security, including marines and roof snipers.
But what are the actual dangers?
After the escalating rumors last week regarding terrorism in Nairobi, we topped off the week with the Gikomba Market explosions.
What I found extraordinary is how immediately the Western news media picked up on the Gikomba Market attack. We’ve had about TWENTY IED/grenade explosions in Nairobi, many even since Westgate in September 2013.
I don’t know why this particular attack sparked the news media, but it certainly was the tipping point at the UN. Speculation became reality, and the measures we’d been told were in consideration to keep us safe were put into effect immediately.
What does it all exactly mean for life in Kenya, though?
Attacks happen a lot here. Lots of them impact us indirectly in some way, whether by location or personal relation. My colleague at work just had an attempted break-in at his house less than two weeks ago, where armed thieves dug under his fence, poisoned his dogs, tied up and beat his guard almost to death, and then engaged in a gun battle with the security forces responding to the panic button.
And, because attacks are a regular part of life, people tend to just be nonplussed and shrug off the danger alerts.
Am I worried about the repercussions of the Gikomba attack? No, Gikomba Market is in Eastleigh, quite far from both my house, and from the UN (see photo).
But we have been told that the UN has officially received credible information that the compound is a target.
Does that mean that my house isn’t safe? Not at all.
Does that warrant my evacuation from the country? No.
Does it make me extremely anxious while I’m at the office? Absolutely.
We’ve been given some leniency in terms of telecommuting and flexible hours, which soothes anxiety a bit.
Life here will go on. Most Kenyan nationals are totally ambivalent and unconcerned. We went to the Village Market yesterday and it was packed, people were shopping, and the palpable tension felt in the city on Saturday right after Gikomba seemed to have already dissipated. Explosions, as I’ve mentioned, are a total wrong place, wrong time kind of incident.
For UN staffers, however, it feels like we’re just waiting on the wrong time.