July 16, 2010
Our New Life, in Blood and Color
By JULIUS OCWINYO
IN the days since the blasts, my city has turned from shock to anger.
But shock is where we began. At first, the bombing attacks that killed more than 70 people last Sunday didn’t quite register. A neighbor called to tell me, “
At the time, I wondered about the soft thuds I had heard the night before at the pub where I was having a drink. Could a sound that dull have come from bombs going off just a few streets away, wreaking havoc?
On Monday morning, reality hit us all. The front pages of all newspapers were screaming about the massacre. And they carried harrowing pictures — men and women, sprawled dead in their plastic chairs or on the ground. The chairs, most of them white, were streaked scarlet with blood. The photos in the tabloids were even more gruesome. Was that a leg? A Guinness beer bottle firmly gripped by a lifeless hand? There was a picture of two crows atop a tile roof. The caption: “Two crows fight over a chunk of flesh from a bomb victim.”
I found myself focusing on images of the faces of the dead, most of them young. One or two were middle-aged. A white man, who I later learned was an American, looked older than the rest.
One of the faces sneaked up on me. I looked closely at it, stared at the ceiling in hope of a flash of recognition. Where had I seen this face before? Then I remembered. This was the guy who worked for a couple of years at the National Book Trust of
Over the last few days I’ve found that most everyone knows a victim. One of the most prestigious banks, Stanchart, lost employees in the blasts. The government-owned newspaper, New Vision, ran a feature on one of its own, a young man who was “friends with everyone.” A suburb where I had lived for 10 years lost two men.
It didn’t take long for six people to be arrested. The police still haven’t disclosed who they are, but they say they suspect others are still on the run, and promise to track them all down. The Ugandan president declared a week of mourning, which will end on Monday.
By mid-week, there was no more talk about business rivals setting off the blasts. Al Shabaab, an extremist Islamic group from Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack — and most Ugandans believe them. Many had heard about the Shabaab, but before this week the group’s name had sounded like nothing more than the doleful peal of a distant bell.
Wasn’t it some dreadful group that did macabre things in
And most frightening: could they have recruited militants from among the Somali refugees living in Kisenyi, one of
The day after the bombing, my brother, a bursar at a secondary school hundreds of miles away, called. “Are you safe?” he asked.
“I’m safe,” I told him.
“We were all very worried here,” he added. “We heard that
We still are. The week of official mourning is almost over. The international papers have moved on to other news. But in
Toward the end of the week, in fact, I found myself staring at more pictures of carnage in the newspapers. Only these weren’t of people I had known. The tabloids ran photographs of two heads found at the bomb sites — one very definitely Somali and the other possibly Ugandan. At least one of the heads is believed to have belonged to a bomber. Both heads were taken away by the F.B.I. for further investigation.
That one of the murderers is likely dead has brought us little comfort, for it only confirmed what we have been growing to understand over the course of this horrible week: that the blasts were the work of suicide bombers. And surely there are more out there.
Now there’s nothing left for us to do but wait anxiously, while we mourn, for the next bomb to explode any time, anywhere.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs