Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-sjtt6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-24T07:17:18.000Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

#weareone: blood donation, terrorism and dreams of inclusion in Kenya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2020


This article examines responses to the terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi in September 2013 in order to investigate the role played by blood donation, as an expression of national dreams, in the political imaginary of contemporary Kenya. It considers the symbolic effectiveness of calls for blood donation made by political figures in the aftermath of the attacks. Such calls drew on a tradition of donation drives begun in the early years of independence, which emphasized the modernizing imperative of the new state and the importance of unity, hard work and self-sacrifice in building the nation. However, the reaction to Westgate, including calls for blood donation, also needs to be understood with reference to the response of American and other leaders to equivalent terrorist attacks in more recent years. These elite dreams found resonance among ordinary citizens and blood donation recruiters. But they were also subjected to trenchant critiques that sought to expose the reality of the transfusion system, as well as the inequality and injustice that mark the general healthcare system and Kenyan society as a whole. These shortcomings were also highlighted by mobilization drives organized by Kenya's Somali and Asian communities both before and during the Westgate crisis. The latter are presented by their organizers as a means of overcoming historic exclusion and discrimination.



Cet article examine des réponses à l'attaque terroriste qui a visé le centre commercial Westgate de Nairobi en septembre 2013 afin d'examiner le rôle joué par le don de sang, en tant qu'expression de rêves nationaux, dans l'imaginaire politique du Kenya contemporain. Il étudie l'efficacité symbolique des appels aux dons de sang lancés par des figures politiques à la suite de l'attaque. Ces appels s'inspiraient d'une tradition de campagnes de don qui ont débuté dans les années qui suivirent l'indépendance, qui mettaient l'accent sur l'impératif de modernisation du nouvel État et sur l'importance de l'unité, de l'effort et de l'abnégation dans la construction de la nation. Cependant, il convient également de comprendre la réaction à l'attaque de Westgate, y compris les appels aux dons de sang, en référence à la réponse des dirigeants américains et autres à des attaques terroristes équivalentes plus récentes. Ces rêves d’élites ont trouvé une résonance chez les citoyens ordinaires et les recruteurs de dons de sang. Mais ils ont aussi fait l'objet de critiques incisives visant à exposer la réalité du système de transfusion, ainsi que l'inégalité et l'injustice qui marquent le système général de santé et la société kényane dans son ensemble. Ces carences ont également été soulignées par des campagnes de mobilisation organisées par les communautés somaliennes et asiatiques du Kenya avant et durant la crise du Westgate. Ces campagnes sont présentées par leurs organisateurs comme un moyen de surmonter l'exclusion et la discrimination historiques.

Generative fictions
Copyright © International African Institute 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Anderson, D. and McKnight, J. (2014) ‘Kenya at war: Al-Shabaab and its enemies in Eastern Africa’, African Affairs 114 (454): 127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anonymous (2009) ‘Bloodlink foundation uses unique approach to recruit blood donors’, CDC in Kenya 2 (2): 13.Google Scholar
Aronson, S. L. (2013) ‘Kenya and the global war on terror: neglecting history and geopolitics in approaches to counterterrorism’, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies 7 (1–2): 2434.Google Scholar
Atieno-Odhiambo, E. S. (1987) ‘Democracy and the ideology of order in Kenya’ in Schatzberg, M. (ed.), The Political Economy of Kenya. New York NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
Bauman, Z. (2011) ‘The London riots: on consumerism coming home to roost’, Social Europe, 9 August <>, accessed 5 April 2017.,+accessed+5+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Bindra, S. (2005) ‘Kenya Damu’, Awaaz 3 (14): 1619.Google Scholar
Bush, G. (2001) ‘Address to a joint session of Congress and the American people’ <>, accessed 29 March 2017.,+accessed+29+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Carrier, N. and Lochery, E. (2013) ‘Missing states? Somali trade networks and the Eastleigh transformation’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 7 (2): 334–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheeseman, N., Lynch, G. and Willis, J. (2014) ‘Democracy and its discontents: understanding Kenya's 2013 elections’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 8 (1): 224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Copeman, J. (2005) ‘Veinglory: exploring processes of blood transfer between persons’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11: 465–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Copeman, J. (2009) ‘Gathering points: blood donation and the scenography of “national integration” in India’, Body and Society 15: 7199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Sousa Santos, B. (2006) ‘The heterogeneous state and legal pluralism in Mozambique’, Law and Society Review 40: 3975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dixon, R. (2013) ‘Video shows Kenyan soldiers looting besieged mall’, Los Angeles Times, 23 October <>, accessed 29 March 2017.,+accessed+29+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Droney, D. (2014) ‘Ironies of laboratory work during Ghana's second age of optimism’, Cultural Anthropology 29 (2): 363–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dutta, A. (2012) ‘Investing in HIV services while building Kenya's health system: PEPFAR's support to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission’, Health Affairs 31 (7): 110.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dutta, A., Odour, M. and Mwai, D. (2012) ‘Preventing transfusion-transmissible infection in Kenya: steps to increase the supply of screened blood’. E2 Policy. Nairobi: Health Policy Project <>, accessed 16 April 2017.,+accessed+16+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Eggen, O. (2012) ‘Performing good governance: the aesthetics of bureaucratic practice in Malawi’, Ethnos 77: 123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geissler, P. W. (2005) ‘“Kachinga are coming!” Encounters around medical research work in a Kenyan village’, Africa 75 (2): 173202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geissler, P. W. (2012) ‘“We are not paid – they just give us”: liberalisation and the longing for biopolitical discipline around an African HIV prevention’ in Geissler, P., Rottenburg, R. and Zenker, J. (eds), Rethinking Biomedicine and Governance in Africa: contributions from anthropology. Bielefeld: transcript.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geissler, P. W. (2013) ‘The archipelago of public health: comments on the landscape of medical research in twenty-first-century Africa’ in Prince, R. J. and Marsland, R. (eds), Making and Unmaking Public Health in Africa: ethnographic and historical perspectives. Athens OH: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
Government of Kenya (1965) ‘African socialism and its application to planning in Kenya’. Sessional paper. Nairobi: Government of Kenya.Google Scholar
Government of Kenya (2012) ‘Kenya Vision 2030’. Sessional paper 10. Nairobi: Government of Kenya.Google Scholar
Guha, R. (2003) ‘The politics of identity and enumeration in India c.1600–1990’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 45 (1): 148–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hornsby, C. (2013) Kenya: a history since independence. London: I. B. Tauris.Google Scholar
Kangwele, T. (2014) ‘Giving blood, giving life’, CDC in Kenya blog, 13 June <>, accessed 17 April 2017.,+accessed+17+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Kenyatta, U. (2013a) ‘Full statement of President Uhuru Kenyatta on terror attack’, The Standard, 22 September <>, accessed 31 March 2017.,+accessed+31+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Kenyatta, U. (2013b) ‘Kenya has triumphed over terrorists’ <>, accessed 1 April 2017.,+accessed+1+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Kenyatta, U. (2013c) ‘Mashujaa Day speech: President Kenyatta, be involved in boosting national security’ <>, accessed 4 April 2017.,+accessed+4+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Kimani, D., Mwangi, J., Mwangi, M., Bunnell, R., Kellogg, T. A., Oluoch, T., Gichangi, A., Kaiser, R., Mugo, N., Odongo, T., Odour, M. and Marum, L. (2011) ‘Blood donors in Kenya: a comparison of voluntary and family replacement donors based on a population-based survey’, Vox Sanguinis 100: 212–18.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Korir, N. (2013) ‘Do not let terrorists divide us on religious grounds’, The Star, 28 September <>, accessed 1 April 2017.,+accessed+1+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Kutuny, J. (2013) ‘National unity should carry on beyond disasters’, The Star, 9 September <>, accessed 4 April 2017.,+accessed+4+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Lochery, E. (2012) ‘Rendering difference visible: the Kenyan state and its Somali citizens’, African Affairs 111 (445): 615–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mathiu, M. (2014) ‘Are we just going to sit around and wait to be blown to bits by terrorists’, Daily Nation blog, 20 March <>, accessed 16 April 2017.,+accessed+16+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Mbembe, A. (2001) On the Postcolony. Berkeley and Los Angeles CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
McConnell, T. (2015) ‘Close your eyes and pretend to be dead’, Foreign Policy, 20 September <>, accessed 28 March 2017.,+accessed+28+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Moore, P. (1966) ‘Give a pint of blood and save a life’, East African Standard, 13 October.Google Scholar
Moran, J. (2005) ‘Queuing up in post-war Britain’, Twentieth Century British History 16 (3): 283305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moss, N. and O'Hare, A. (2014) ‘Staging democracy: Kenya's televised presidential debates’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 8 (1): 7892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Munene, H. (2013) ‘Kenya must emerge stronger from attack on Westgate mall’, The Standard, 28 September <>, accessed 30 March 2017.,+accessed+30+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Muraya, J. (2013) ‘Bloodied but unbowed: Westgate attack through the alphabet’, Daily Nation, 1 October <>, accessed 30 March 2017.,+accessed+30+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Murphy, J. (2003) ‘“Our mission and our moment”: George W. Bush and September 11th’, Rhetoric and Public Affairs 6 (4): 607–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Musila, G. A. (2015) A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward murder. Woodbridge: James Currey.Google Scholar
Neocleous, M. (2011) ‘War on waste: law, original accumulation and the violence of capital’, Science and Society 75: 506–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ng'weno, H. (1964) ‘Commentary’, Daily Nation, 21 October 1964.Google Scholar
Okwembah, D. (2013) ‘#weareone – how Westgate united Kenyans’, BBC News, 27 September <>, accessed 31 March 2017.,+accessed+31+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Ombongi, K. (2011) ‘The historical interface between the state and medical science in Africa: Kenya's case’ in Geissler, P. W. and Molyneux, C. (eds), Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: the anthropology and history of medical research in Africa. New York NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
Omondi, J. (2014) ‘Westgate: the other Nairobi and the future of Kenya’, Foreign Service Journal, July/August <>, accessed 4 April 2018.,+accessed+4+April+2018.>Google Scholar
Opalo, K. (2013) ‘Westgate attack a reminder of need to reform the security sector’, The Standard, 28 September <>, accessed 6 April 2017.,+accessed+6+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Oudia, R. (2013) ‘Strike “lowers blood donation”’, The Standard, 22 July <>, accessed 17 April 2017.,+accessed+17+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Poulakos, N. (2013) ‘Rhetorical encounters with the exigence of 9/11: witnesses rewrite the rhetorical situation’. PhD thesis, University of Iowa.Google Scholar
Prince, R. J. (2015) ‘Seeking incorporation? Voluntary labour and the ambiguities of work, identity and social value in contemporary Kenya’, African Studies Review 58 (2): 86109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reubi, D. (2010) ‘Blood donors, development and modernisation: configurations of biological sociality and citizenship in post-colonial Singapore’, Citizenship Studies 14 (5): 473–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roitman, J. (2014) Anti-Crisis. Durham NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Rose, N. and Novas, C. (2004) ‘Biological citizenship’ in Ong, A. and Collier, S. (eds), Global Assemblages: technology, politics, and ethics as anthropological problems. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Schneider, W. (2013) The History of Blood Transfusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Athens OH: Ohio University Press.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Seeman, D. (1999) ‘“One people, one blood”: public health, political violence, and HIV in an Ethiopian-Israeli setting’, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 23: 159–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shepard, M. (2013) ‘Kenya mall attack: Somali community rallies to help victims’, The Toronto Star, 23 September <>, accessed 16 October 2019.,+accessed+16+October+2019.>Google Scholar
Simon, T., Goldberg, A., Aharonson-Daniel, L., Leykin, D. and Adini, B. (2014) ‘Twitter in the cross fire: the use of social media in the Westgate mall terror attack in Kenya’, PLOS ONE 9 (8): 111.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Simpson, B. (2009) ‘“Please give a drop of blood”: blood donation, conflict and the haemato-global assemblage in contemporary Sri Lanka’, Body and Society 15 (2): 101–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simpson, B. (2011) ‘Blood rhetorics: donor campaigns and their publics in contemporary Sri Lanka’, Ethnos 76 (2): 254–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Starr, D. (1998) Blood: an epic history of blood and commerce. London: Sphere.Google Scholar
Starr, D. (2002) ‘Bad blood: the 9/11 donation disaster’, The New Republic, 29 July <>, accessed 18 July 2017.,+accessed+18+July+2017.>Google Scholar
Strong, T. (2009) ‘Vital publics of pure blood’, Body and Society 15: 169–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Theroux, P. (1967) ‘Hating the Asians’, Transition 75–6: 6073.Google Scholar
Titmuss, R. (1997) The Gift Relationship: from human blood to social policy. New York NY: New Press.Google Scholar
Turner, C. (2013) ‘We shall continue to help fight terrorism’, Daily Nation, 7 October <>, accessed 6 April 2017.,+accessed+6+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Van den Branden, S. and Broeckaert, B. (2011) ‘The ongoing charity of organ donation: contemporary English Sunni fatwas on organ donation and blood transfusion’, Bioethics 25 (3): 167–75.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Vaughan, M. (1991) Curing their Ills: colonial power and African illness. Cambridge and Stanford CA: Polity and Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Waldby, C. and Mitchell, R. (2007) ‘Tissue economies: blood, organs, and cell lines in late capitalism’, Science and Society 71 (4): 504–6.Google Scholar
Wambugu, M. (2013) ‘11,000 pints of blood collected’, The Star, 25 September <>, accessed 8 July 2017.,+accessed+8+July+2017.>Google Scholar
Wangai, F. (2013) ‘The bitter truth is, we Kenyans are not one’, The Star, 8 November <>, accessed 15 April 2017.,+accessed+15+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Wanner, Z. (2013) ‘When one accord became own accord’, The Star, 28 September <>, accessed 4 April 2017.,+accessed+4+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Were, E. (2013a) ‘1,500 donate blood as hundreds turned away’, The Star, 24 September <>, accessed 29 March 2017.,+accessed+29+March+2017.>Google Scholar
Were, E. (2013b) ‘Israel to help Kenya fight terror: envoy’, The Star, 25 September <>, accessed 6 April 2017.,+accessed+6+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Whittaker, H. (2014) Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Kenya: a social history of the Shifta conflict, 1963–1968. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
WHO (2016) ‘Fact sheet: blood safety and availability’. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) <>, accessed 6 April 2017.,+accessed+6+April+2017.>Google Scholar
Williams, P. D. (2014) ‘After Westgate: opportunities and challenges in the war against Al-Shabaab’, International Affairs 90: 907–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
World Bank Group (2016) ‘Kenya country economic memorandum: from economic growth to jobs and shared prosperity’. Washington DC: World Bank Group <>, accessed 14 April 2017.,+accessed+14+April+2017.>Google Scholar