The Day It Rained Bullets In Masalani - Part 1
Some things you never forget. Like driving off to escape a spray of bullets with a bomb lodged in your car radiator waiting to explode. Or that first bullet that tears through your body and puts you at the mercy of your own courage. There are other people in the car, screaming, some have fainted – the driver is in shock. So today it’s just you, and your courage. They can keep shooting but today is not the day you die.
In November 2018, a Kenya Red Cross vehicle was attacked by unknown assailants in Ruqa area, while on its way to Ijara from Masalani, Garissa County. Among those in the car was Ifrah Aden, a 24-year volunteer who was shot three times, and who against all odds mastered the courage to survive through it all.
When I sat down with her just after she had been awarded the Michael Sululu Volunteer of the Year Award 2018, nothing prepared me for the story she was about to tell.
She tells me...It started out like a normal busy morning, we were rushing against time because we had a long way to go. We were to go from Masalani, then drop some volunteers and staff in Ruqa, then to Ijara to drop more, before I continued to the farthest end that is Sangole.
The journey started well; about 200m after making a drop in Ruqa, just when we were slowing down as we drove over a culvert, we heard an explosion BOOM! It happened so fast, nobody saw it coming.
I was in the front seat having a conversation with a Project Officer who was seated behind the driver. I turned towards the sound and saw a bazooka coming towards us. It hit the vehicle hard but lucky for us it didn’t explode, if it had that would have been the end of us.
For a moment, I went blank. We had a bomb stuck inside the radiator of our vehicle and it could explode anytime! The car was shaking so hard from the impact, our driver was having a hard time controlling it.
You could feel the chaos and the fear, one of the volunteers in the back seat fainted instantly, others collapsed to the floor. Even the driver froze. At that moment, it was just me. I unlocked my seatbelt, knelt down and started talking to the driver to keep him focused.
I could see the attackers approaching, they were shooting at us from all sides. You know that sound you hear mvua ikipiga mabati, that’s all I could hear as the bullets sprayed the vehicle.
But I knew I had to try my best because when that bazooka hit our car and didn’t explode, my chances of surviving became higher. I had to put all my energy in the driver to get out of this. I could see he was in shock; he didn’t know whether to keep on driving or stop the car.
“What do I do Ifrah?” He asked me.
I told him to reverse the car but he kept driving forward.
All this time, I kept asking myself, “What would they do to us if they captured us?” I mean, I’m a girl. All I could think about were those incidences we’d had, not as Kenya Red Cross, but aid workers in general and even girls getting abducted from their villages and turned into sex slaves.
I had two options running through my mind – they either had to kill me there and then or I had to escape from this situation – but I was not going to let them take me alive. And the only way for me to survive was making our driver be on his feet. I slapped him to bring him back from shock and get him to reverse the car, I don't think he even remembers.
And then I was shot.
Suddenly, I was shot on my left side, on the breast. The driver panicked even more and let go of the steering wheel.
“Ifrah you’ve been shot.”
I had to pretend that nothing had happened, that I was alright, so I covered the wound. “You are dreaming, just reverse and keep driving,” I assured him.
Finally, when he reversed the car, the attackers facing us were thrown off-guard. Remember, there’s still a bomb stuck in the car’s radiator that could explode any time, and when the attackers saw this unexpected turn, they stopped shooting and ran for safety. Perhaps they were afraid that the bomb could explode anytime and get them as well.
But those behind us didn’t stop, they kept shooting such that when the car reversed, I was hit by two more bullets that were meant for the driver. We were not going to stop now, I told the driver to keep going.
At some point, as we were driving away, the car bonnet flew open - I guess from the impact of the bomb. We couldn’t see the road so I told the driver to look out of the window from his side while I did the same on my side just to make sure that we stayed on the road. The attackers were still shooting but the only thing I could think of was survival.
Thank God the driver listened to me because if he had gone into complete shock, what would I have done? Someone was screaming from backseat, but I told him to just concentrate on my voice and listen to my words.
Smoke was coming out from the bonnet but we moved forward. I told him that it was better to die somewhere else than there. I had to use everything I had to keep him motivated.
“Do you have kids?” I asked him.
He told me he had a newborn baby boy.
“You need to live for your son. Amka baba, save us.”
He just kept driving until we got near the village we had dropped off some of the volunteers (in Ruqa). They (volunteers) could hear gunshots from a distance, so we found them standing by the road.
I tried to get out but the doors were jammed, no one in the backseat was moving. I jumped to the backseat, and opened the doors. The other volunteers got into the car and that’s when we started making calls.
I was bleeding everywhere; the other volunteers and staff were crying but I couldn’t join them. I was the team leader, I’d also been shot three times - what would happen to the rest if I lost control? I’m a First Aider, I grabbed a cloth and tied it around my stomach to stop the bleeding, then I took some painkillers.
After a few minutes, two ambulances and one vehicle from the branch arrived. The service at Masalani Sub-County Hospital was instant, but the bullets were not removed there and then, the doctor had me stabilized and in five minutes, I was on my way to Malindi for further treatment.
I have one bullet now, one was an entry and exit wound while the other has been removed.