MUKESH KAPILA: 3,000 Children

MUKESH KAPILA: 3,000 Children

The highlight of my stay at Storymoja Hay Festival 2013 was the screaming horde of 3000 children – almost twice the expected number – as they occupied the National Museum. Their eyes bright with curiosity, their mouths open with wonder, and most important of all, their young minds obviously open to all possibilities. In my own session on becoming a human rights activist, a young pupil simply asked “Why are people so cruel?” I could find no easy answer. So I decided to dedicate my Wangari Maathai Memorial Lecture the following day to address this very question. In front of the serried ranks of the creme de la creme of Nairobi society I lived my personal experiences of witnessing the last genocide of the 20th century – Rwanda – and went on to reflect upon my unfortunate place in history as having presided over the first genocide of 21st century – in Darfur. These personal experiences of the worst that man can do to fellow humans had tortured me for the past two decades. Suddenly in front of my African audience, I found understanding. For me being able to share my personal story of evil and good, and the redemptive power of forgiveness, was the lifting of an immense burden.

 

Why, I wondered? Then I suddenly realised why I felt at home.  For me Storymoja 2013 was more than just a book festival to be used to publicise my book. Before I left, I went to pay my respects to the remains of the two-million old elephant that has pride of place at Nairobi Museum.  It is from this great continent of Africa that humanity had arisen and where I discovered the little bit of African that is present in all of us.