Improving society, building country key to win war on terror

The sight of suspects linked to the dusitD2 hotel terror attack sitting peacefully in a Nairobi courthouse is painful for all Kenyans. It was just a week ago that dozens of our countrymen and women were killed, maimed and injured in the violence. Souls were taken, lives ruined, and families ripped apart. I am of course a committed believer in the rule of law, the independence of the courts and the right to a fair trial. These principles and rights are at the heart of our criminal justice system.

Yet despite this, there is something unedifying about witnessing individuals – accused of meticulously devising, planning, funding and executing a terror attack that killed over twenty of our brethren – sitting peacefully in a court room, as if they were merely involved in a petty property dispute. For we are only human, as are our instincts. And it is only natural to want terrorists and terror sympathisers to suffer. Not just in court, but really suffer, as they made us suffer.

At these moments, I always come back to one verse from the Bible in Romans 12. “Repay no one evil for evil… If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Over the years, I have struggled with this teaching. When faced with such evil, does our creator really expect us to turn the other cheek? To live peacefully with those who wish to destroy us? Is this not too much to ask?

But as I have grown older, I have realised this teaching is not for the benefits of the terrorists or the evildoers. It is for us. An individual or society obsessed with vengeance is not a healthy one. We cannot thrive when our focus is on avenging our losses. Our focus must be on doing good, not avenging evil. This does not mean society should simply ignore the attacks. Far from it. I am one hundred percent behind President Kenyatta’s efforts to hunt down those who planned and financed the dusitD2 attack and will support all actions by our security forces to bring the attackers to justice and to make us safer.

The key point here is that the focus is not on vengeance, but on justice and prevention. Uhuru is not calling on us to punish those who attacked us, but rather to bring them to justice and to step up our efforts to protect ourselves from terror. Vengeance is about the past. This is about the future. But even this should not be the sum total of our response to the dusitD2 attack. This is just the beginning. Our real response is through development, through improving our society and through building a better country. These terrorists are fundamentalists that love death. We will defeat them, and get our real vengeance, through sanctifying life.

That is why our answer to this terror attack is to double down and recommit to achieving President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda. We respond by building more low cost houses; by ensuring food security; by strengthening our manufacturing sector; by achieving universal health coverage.

This is a view shared by our President. In his comments following the attack, he stated that “We are in the process of building a new Kenya that is prosperous, secure, and inclusive, and in which every Kenyan has an opportunity to thrive. We will allow no one to derail or frustrate our progress… Let us now continue with our work of building our nation.”

In this way we will sanctify the memory of those killed in this, and other, terror attacks. We will remember them by the country we build and by the lives we improve. So while it may be painful to remember the destruction of the dusitD2 attack and those before it, and to see the accused perpetrators sit calmly in court, let us leave vengeance to the Lord, and instead focus on our job to build our country. That is how we will win.

- The writer is a banker. [email protected]