Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I spent the entire afternoon in conversation with a friend I have not seen in over 12 years. S. Abdi Sheikh, his name is, has been quite busy raising a family and running a couple of businesses. Most important of all he has been writing. Most recently, and this being the particular reason I sought him out, he has published a book that examines the events surrounding yet another horrendous moment in Kenyan history, the Wagalla massacre of 1984.

I will let the blurb from the book, Blood on the Runway: The Wagalla Massacre of 1984 ,speak for itself:

“In February 1984, Kenyan security forces rounded up and detained over 5,000 men from the Degodia clan of the Somali tribe, confined them at the Wagalla airstrip, stripped them naked and held them without food and water for four days. Blood on the Runway is the story of what happened and over 20 years of the ongoing struggle for the justice for the victims and survivors.

The Wagalla massacre story has every bit of a horror movie; blood and scattered brains, severed limbs, rotting flesh and mass graves.

The story of Wagalla is filled with intrigue. There is a conspiracy at every turn and nothing seems what it is. There was a master plan that was drawn up and implemented; it failed at the last minute; what was thought as an easy job of slaughtering 'sheep' became a nightmare. The 'sheep' scattered and bleated loudly, waking up the nearby villagers. Hiding the feast in the bushes became the only hope for the hunter. But scavengers had already smelled the blood and were turning every corpse around. The mortally wounded hid in the bushes only to come out at night and die in the open fields. For a period, the confusion created confounded even its creators. As the drama unfolded something strange began to happen. The world turned around and saw the sorry state of Wagalla. The story could not be killed. “

There is a time and space for commentary, but for me, this is not it. I have a book to read. For those that might want to engage with this issue, and there are legion it can be hoped, please go out and get a copy from your preferred Nairobi bookshop. For a briefer analysis of the issues and events surrounding the Wagalla massacre, KenyaImagine has this week published an opinion piece by the same author.

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