By Naomi Friedman, Staff Writer
At least 147 students were killed in a massacre in Kenya at the University of Garissa, East-Kenya, on Thursday, April 2. The Somalia-based Islamist group al-Shabaab in connection with al-Qaeda is held responsible for the attack. This new terrorism activity questions the government’s promises of a safe country.
The day before the assault, Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, asserted that the country was as safe as any other one. Since the terrorist attack of the Westgate mall in Nairobi in September 2013, Kenya has had to rethink the protection of its population.
The local press criticized the authority’s slow reaction to the attack. Special forces are said to have taken at least seven hours to arrive and riposte against the Somali Islamic Commando.
The entire country was in shock. The Standard, one of Kenya’s most influntial newspapers, writes, “The nation is weeping, the people are reeling in shock. There is every reason to be angry. Tears and blood flowed. Hearts shook and minds are still dazed. The collective anger is like a tidal wave, you can feel it.” The press calls for national unity to save the country’s security.
The Minister of the Interior—Homeland Security—Joseph Nkaissery, confirmed on the evening of Thursday, April 2, that “all four assailants […] were shot dead by members of the security forces. The terrorists wore explosives which went off” when they were shot.
Hundreds are still searching for a lost family member a few days after the tragedy. Running between the morgue and the rarely updated list of survivors, many have started to lose hope. TV5Monde, a global television network, reports about Carolyn, daughter of Abraham Koech, who is neither at the morgue, nor on the list. Her father has been looking for her since Thursday—the day she last called him to say an Islamic commando attacked her school.
“I have not gotten any news since she called me saying ‘there are terrorists, I am hiding under my bed,’” Koech said, “and then I heard heavy shootings and it hung up. I tried calling back, but nobody has answered. And at 4pm her phone turned off.”
Similar scenarios are common. People are angry with the government for its lack of communication. “Whatever the news I would get, good or bad, I would take it as it is,” said a man from Machacos, 40 miles outside Nairobi. “It would end the uncertainty.” He is looking for his daughter, Faith, who is 20 years old and studied informatics. Bodies brought to the morgue are in bad conditions and need to be identified by finger printing.
Only two days after the massacre on Garissa’s campus, the group al-Shabaab addressed a statement to the Kenyan people, warning them that their government will not be able to protect them from more similar attacks.
“We have repeatedly warned you that the actions of your government will not be without retaliation,” they said. “Choices have consequences. . .For as long as your government persists in its path of oppression, implements repressive policies and continues with the systematic persecution against innocent Muslims, our attacks will also continue. No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities.”
“As for the Kenyan government: Our message will be written to you not with words, but with the blood of your people. Dig their graves and prepare their coffins from now.”