Westgate Massacre, Kenya


As I headed south from the birth center to G-Town and Murchison Falls to Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda, a terrible tragedy was unfolding in neighboring Kenya: the massacre of dozens of innocent people in the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi. I caught glimpses of footage on television screens and heard reports on the radio. An Islamic militant group, Al-Shabaab of Somalia, targeted the shopping center.

The longer I work with families in childbirth, the less patience I have for brutality and murder. Murder distresses me more than it did before, and I cannot ignore my feelings about it. It wastes the nine months of a woman’s pregnancy, her hard labor to bring forth new life (not to mention the work of the midwife helping her!), and all the years of nurturing the life of a human being to maturity. It takes years for a human being to grow, but only seconds to destroy all of that beauty and wonder. It’s wrong, and I can’t stand it.

Among the dead in Kenya were two pregnant women, one nine months along and the other seven months along. Kofi Awoonor, the Ghanaian poet, was also killed.


Sometimes, we read the
lines in the green leaf,
run our fingers over the
smooth of the precious wood
from our ancient trees; 

sometimes, even the sunset
puzzles, as we look
for the lines that propel the clouds,
the colour scheme
with the multiple designs
that the first artist put together. 

There is dancing in the streets again;
the laughter of children rings
through the house.
On the seaside, the ruins recent
from the latest storms
remind of ancestral wealth
pillaged purloined pawned
by an unthinking grandfather
who lived the life of a lord
and drove coming generations to
despair and ruin. 


But who says our time is up,
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal? 

No; where the worm eats,
a grain grows.
The consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity. 

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn. 


We are the celebrants
whose fields were
overrun by rogues
and other bad men who
interrupted our dance
with obscene songs and bad gestures. 

Someone said an ailing fish
swam up our lagoon
seeking a place to lay its load
in consonance with the Original Plan. 

Master, if you can be the oarsman
for our boat
please do it, do it.
I asked you before
once upon a shore
at home, where the
seafront has narrowed
to the brief space of childhood. 

We welcome the travelers
come home on the new boat
fresh from the upright tree.

Kofi Awoonor

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