Praying that Devil Back to Hell
It’s been a week now. A week since I was attacked by that bastard. It was 8.30pm, not really what you’d call late, but it was dark. It always gets dark in Nairobi around 7pm, as it’s so close to the equator. And to be honest, I usually like to be home before dark. In any city. But especially Nairobi. You see, Nairobi has a reputation. “Nairobbery” they call it. And me, I’m white, and a woman, so especially vulnerable.
So, last Wednesday evening, I was on my way home from the Alliance Francaise in town, where they were having their annual “Culturelles”, a week-long festival in honour of International Women’s Day. I’d just seen a hugely inspiring documentary about the women’s peace movement in Liberia, that had eventually ousted Charles Taylor & been instrumental in installing a woman president. The film was called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”
I left immediately after the film, hopped on a bus and within 15 minutes was walking the last stretch from the main road down to my home. My temporary home in Westlands, where I’ve been staying with friends the last few weeks. It’s quite an affluent, predominantly Asian neighbourhood with lots of security - inside the compounds. That stretch of road winds back and forth. It’s only 10 minutes walk at most. I was walking briskly, congratulating myself at my refusal to be intimidated into not going out at night. Fifty metres from home I rounded the poorly lit bend, & suddenly a motorbike out of nowhere swerved to a halt in front of me. A guy jumped off and stuck a gun in my face. All I saw were his wild eyes and the nostrils of cold steel. It seemed the devil had come back out of hell.
“DON’T MOVE OR I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!”
Before I had chance to react he slugged me with it between the eyes. It went off. I felt the intense pain and heard the shot as I fell to the ground, unsure for a moment if I was dead or alive. The guy grabbed my bag off my shoulder, leapt back on the motorbike and was gone. I never even saw the driver. Picking myself up, I grabbed my phone that had fallen out of my hand & stumbled home with blood pouring from my face. My friends took me in & tended to me, then pretty sharply loaded me into the car to go to hospital. By now “the third cavalry” had arrived. Our compound was swarming with helmeted security guards with their batons, all too late.
So what did the thieves get? – the contents of my “Buddhist bag” (a present from my Vietnamese pagoda) – my glasses, my keys, my diary, a small book, and 1000Kes (about $12).
And what did it cost me? - about $450 in medical expenses & loss of income.
I go over it again & again in my mind. Why me? After 3 months of campaigning for One Billion Rising, against violence against women. Why did I get it in the face? Why was it necessary to even hit me? What was it in my karma that I attracted violence against my body again? Why was the attack so vicious? Because I am white? Because I am a woman? Because he was on drugs? Because he was desperate?
It was a cowardly act.
The two other attacks I experienced in my life were by my intimate partners. I spent months after each of those processing, trying to understand why, how could someone who professed to love me so much, harm me so badly?
Now I have been attacked by a complete stranger, whose face I didn’t even see and will never know who it was, I ask again & again, why? What did I ever do to you? You didn’t even know me. And you will never know the damage you did to me, or see the scar I will forever carry on my face from the butt of your gun. How I will be reminded of you every time I look in the mirror. How I will search the face of every Kenyan man on the street or in the bus now and wonder, was it you?
Was that act of terror worth it for the lousy 1000 bob? Did it buy you a few beers or a few lines of crack? Did you give me a second thought? Did you laugh about how easy it was? Did you feel like a big man hitting a defenceless woman with your gun, for nothing? Do you really think you have got away with it?
I guess you don’t know about karma.
Maybe you'll even read this, seeing you got my diary with all my passwords. Clever boy.