Friday, December 11, 2015

2090 CE

Nakuru, Kenya’s once cleanest and fastest growing town in Africa, is out of place in the carpet of yellowing grass at the floor of the Great Rift Valley. The ghost town is barely discernible through the flora that has colonized it. Gaping holes stare down from dilapidated skyscrapers that kissed the grey sky above, buildings are inhabited by skeletons and ghosts. The occasional window is still in possession of its glass but broken so long ago that there is no trace of the shards anywhere on the ground. In most homes the roofs have caved in or at the very least they sag like a disappointing soufflé. The town has no future but to be slowly beaten by the weather till it succumbs to gravity without even a witness or person to mourn its passing.

All is eerily quiet. Time appears to have stood still. The town still stands as monument to changing economic times, political upheavals, wars gone by and catastrophes that have taken more life. 

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst biological and chemical weapons test program, when the Kenya Defence Forces released millions of infected mosquitoes into the town, in order to see if the insects could spread the virus which was being developed at Egerton University.

From 2008 – 2010, researchers at the Integrated Biotechnology Research Laboratory (IBRL) at Egerton University, Njoro found that genetically engineered mosquitoes could be introduced into the ecosystem to eradicate the receptive anopheles mosquitoes, sure way to control malaria. This was to be done through Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) by releasing sterilized mosquitoes.

The sterilized mosquitoes would prey on the non-sterilized, and within two to three years the Anopheles mosquito would be extinct. The mosquitoes were harmless to humans.
A year into the program, the sterilized mosquitoes were injected with chemicals that could be transmitted to the target. A basidiomycete serialized JO5289 was collected from undisturbed habitat in Londiani forest in Nakuru. Through gene therapy, the strain was manipulated and injected into the mosquitoes, but when people started complaining about the mosquitoes biting them, the program went under for fifty years. Army researchers got hold of the strain, secretly weaponised it to military grade and prepared to test it on the people of Nakuru.

The target of the biological and chemical weapon was Uganda for claiming a large swath of Kenya’s territory from the Western and Nyanza province, and part of Rift Valley up to Naivasha, just eighty kilometres from the capital, reviving an almost century old claim made by the former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Militarily, the weapons test was successful. Thousands and thousands of people died overnight, and hundreds of researchers who had fled the town prior to the launch of the test program contracted illnesses that included fevers, respiratory problems, stillbirths, encephalitis, and typhoid. No resident of Nakuru was evacuated.

To this day Nakuru is eerily quiet, and everything else is frozen in time. No one buried those who died, their ghosts roam the town even during the day, and their frail cries can be heard across the country.  


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