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Society

Hope and resilience rise from depth of tragedy

 terror attack at 14 Riverside Drive Complex
A survivor is reunited with a relative on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, after terror attack at 14 Riverside Drive Complex in Nairobi on Tuesday. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO 

Shock, fear and grief pierced our hearts this past Tuesday, January 15, 2019, commensurate with the cowardly terrorist attacks against innocent people at 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi. As information painfully trickles out, Kenyans ponder our individual and collective safety, community, and plans. But out of the depths of tragedy comes hope, aspirations, and resilience.

Kenya thrives as a resilient nation. We seek justice, flourish in unity, and crave peace just as the lines in our national anthem declare that “justice be our shield and defender, may we dwell in unity, peace, and liberty”. We prove resilient at the individual level, community, and national-level. Psychologist Suniya Luthar describes personal resilience as the ability to positively adapt despite adversity.

In Kenya, our high collectivism rating means we find identity in our communities. Our willingness to reach out and respond to appeals from those in our social networks improves our personal resilience. We need help? We reach out. We respond. Other nations with more individualistic cultures would try to utilise only their own personal means or depend on government support instead of direct appeals for assistance.

Collectivism also boosts our resilience at community levels. Researchers Lisa Smith and Timothy Frankenberger found that communities bounce back more robustly when they hold access to information, diversity in income sources, safety nets, and hold a variety of assets, among other factors. We use community harambees to send our students to far away lands and then villages and estates realise communal benefits when those same students later send earnings home as remittances.

Inasmuch our Kenyan diaspora proves massive even in just two foreign countries with over 100,000 Kenyans in the United States and 200,000 others in the United Kingdom with most highly educated in successful professional jobs.

Kenya also retains a long history of international collaboration. It welcomed with open arms decades of NGO support, trade deals, military alliances, education pacts, liberal inward and outward migration, and international financing deals.

Like America, when we faced development funding shortfalls, we sought international financial markets. When threatened with security matters, we partner with neighbours, communities, and other nations. We build extensive linkages and partnerships. Cities all over proudly hold sister cities, towns, and villages in Kenya. Many foreigners fund Kenyan businesses and many Kenyans start business ventures in foreign lands.

Our willingness to face globalisation head-on and position the country competitively on the world stage, instead of hiding our heads in the sand like some other nations in our region, positioned us to now hold the most robust banking system, most liquid securities market, best manufacturing, highest skilled professional services sector, most vibrant technology and entrepreneurship ecosphere, and most powerful military in the whole of East and Central Africa.

We will weather this storm. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with those suffering loss or injury at this difficult period. The terrorists mistook us for a shallow people easily swayed by pompous displays of cruelty. But our resilience will enable a quick rebound at personal, community, and national levels.

Therefore, as a foreign-born Kenyan, I proudly proclaim that I stand with Kenya now. I stand with Kenya tomorrow.

I stand with Kenya forever. I will shop, eat, and meet at 14 Riverside Drive immediately the very same day it reopens. Terrorists will not alter my behaviour, my hopes, or my dreams in this great nation.

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