April 2 marked one year since a handful of Al-Shabaab militants stormed the University campus in Garissa – in Kenya’s volatile east, near the Somali border – and slaughtered 147 mostly Christian students.
The attackers arrived early in the morning, cornered students at morning prayers, killed them and then roved through the dorms to separate Christians from the remaining students and kill them. A sniper waited outside to kill those who tried to flee. The siege lasted 15 hours.
After one woman was shot in the head, her blood traced the outlines of her body onto the floor. The imprint refuses to wash off, symbolically showing that the effects of attacks such as this cannot simply be washed away.
After the attack, World Watch Monitor heard from Frederick Gitonga, the 21-year-old Chairman of the University’s Christian Union. Here he speaks about the impact of last year’s attacks. Also interviewed is a local church leader.
One year on, outsiders still wonder how an attack like that was even possible. But attacks on soft targets like the University students have become endemic in Kenya, particularly in the Muslim-dominated north-eastern and coastal regions.
In a bid to curb attacks, additional police posts have been established in the Garissa University compound and inside the forest that borders Somalia.
Kenyan authorities have also started to build a 700km-long wall along the Kenya-Somalia border to keep the Somali-based militants out. But many feel that controversial and expensive move will not succeed in limiting attacks, as Al-Shabaab is already inside Kenya, as the President himself admitted two days after the attack.
He acknowledged then that “the planners and financiers” of the attack were “deeply embedded” in Kenyan communities. “Radicalisation,” he said, “occurs in the full glare of day, in madrasas, in homes, and in mosques with rogue imams.”
The Garissa campus was re-opened on 4 January, 2016, nine months after the attack.
On Saturday (2 April), memorial events in Garissa will include a marathon with at least 1,000 participants, in a show of solidarity with the people of Garissa.
In Eldoret in western Kenya, at Moi University (a parent campus for the Garissa branch to which students moved to continue studies after the April closure), surviving Christian Union students and leaders plan a big programme, including tree-planting, a procession, candle-lighting, prayers, and speeches from, amongst others, the leaders of the Fellowship of Christian Union Students (FOCUS) – Kenya.
*One student, Risper Mutisya, was still being sought by her father in July 2015.
Courtesy: World Watch Monitor
Publication date: April 4, 2016