By: Phoebe Priscilla Amoako; Amanda Maame Ofosu-Siaw; and Jesse Opoku-Asiedu
Disclaimer: The photos associated with this post are gruesome but they are still used to convey the message. Viewer discretion is advised.
“All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots nobody was screaming because they thought this would lead the gunmen to know where they are,” he said. “The gunmen were saying ‘sisi ni al-Shabaab’ (Swaihi for we are al-Shabaab),” ~Wetangula.
Over the past years, Kenya has seen an uprise on terrorists attacks that have led to a state of panic in the country. These attacks are nothing new. In 1998. Al-Qaeda attacked the US embassy in Nairobi killing 224 people, and injuring about 4,000, majority being Kenyans. In September 2013, the Al-Shabab militants attacked the Westgate Mall in Kenya, killing about 67 people. The victims were representatives from all around the world including the famed Ghanaian poet and diplomat Kofi Awonoor; Canadian diplomat Annemarie Desloges and President Uhuru’s nephew. More recently, on 2nd April, 2015, Al-Shabab militants from Somalia crossed over into Kenya and killed 142 Christian students and 6 security officers in the Garissa University (a predominantly Christian school that was founded in 2011 under the auspices of Moi University also in Kenya) .The quote above is a recount of a survivor from the massacre. One student feigned death by smearing himself with blood from a victim and another hid in a cupboard to avoid being seen. These two students survivors have been greatly traumatized. Less than 24 hours ago, a stampede occurred in University of Nairobi killing 1 student and injuring about 141. The reason for the stampede was a mere transformer explosion in the area which was misconstrued for a terrorist attack. This is the extent to which the Kenyan population has been affected by the Garissa massacre.
According to Time Magazine, the siege lasted a total of 15 hours and security forces were deployed after 7 hours where they held a 2 hour briefing once they arrived at the scene before attempting to rescue the victims. The magazine adds that, the Anti-terrorism police units in the country had a budget as low as $735 per month despite legislation passed in 2011 to overhaul police operations.
Al-Shabab is a terrorist group in Somalia which literally means youth. It is faced with opposition in Somalia from the UN-backed government. Al-Shabab is allied to Al-Qaeda , according to the BBC. Foreign Jihadists are believed to be trooping into Somalia to aid this terrorist group. Currently, their numbers are believed to range from 7000-9000 warriors. Al-Shabab is internationally recognised as terrorist group by the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
Last week the International Students Club held a candlelight vigil for the 148 students who were brutally murdered; a prayer was said and the Kenyans in the Ashesi community were comforted as they sang their national anthem to honour their country despite the loss. Even though the Kenyan massacre is distant from us, we can fully empathize given that we too could have been called out of our lectures and rooms to face death head first. Ashesi’s candlelight vigil was not done in isolation, universities all over the world held vigil sessions to show solidarity to the Kenyans in this time of tragedy.
The candlelight procession is typical across the globe for many universities in countries like Venezuela, Africa,India to Europe and the US showing solidarity.
The picture below reminds us of what we see in our own residence buildings: our friends leaving their shoes on corridors after a game of football or excessive walking up and down the hill to surely wear them again. Unfortunately these shoes left by the Garissa university students will be worn no more because their owners have been wiped at the peril of terrorism a transnational crime. A lot of international efforts should be made to prevent the reoccurrence of such gory events. It is not only the responsibility of Uhuru Kenyatta, but the burden lies on the international community. Such transnational crimes if not nipped in the bud, has the tendency to move into new territories.
We hope for comfort and express sympathy to the 148 loved ones and 148 families who have been robbed of a dear one.