When 147 young people die in a single day there is a problem. When these people are shot to their deaths there is an even bigger problem. This is what happened in Garissa University College where militants broke into the university and injured and killed students. To start with, regardless of what may have provoked this heinous act young life was cut short in the most brutal way and in the most improbable place. This can’t be allowed to continue. There has to be a stop in gambling with people’s lives. This can’t be forgotten; it shall not.
For the last couple of years there has been a pattern of terrorist attacks in Kenya from Mpeketoni to WestGate and now to Garissa. When these attacks occur Kenya and to some extent the world is thrown into a fit of sadness, mourning and complaining and demanding that the government should do more. However, these anger and sadness slowly dissolves into the background and people move on to the next issue at hand. This time enough is enough and these young souls shouldn’t be forgotten and relegated to the dark history of Kenya. When people forget and, god forbid, move on then what happens is that these attacks become normal in society and even something that is expected at some point; with expectation comes manifestation. This is why there is a need to stop these attacks before they become the ‘normal’.
With regional and international politics it is easy for the government to get caught up in other activities that may blind the government and prevent its fulfillment of its first duty as the government of the day to protect all Kenyans. It has been argued that the reason behind these attacks by the Al Shabaab is because the Kenyan Forces are in Somali, whether or not this is the reason, the government need rise up and put the safety of Kenyans first. This will not happen by erecting walls in the borderlines because walls can be blown up and as it is common knowledge there are other ways through which militants can make their way into the country not just through the border. The Somali question must also be addressed by the regional governments because this also has an effect on the security of Kenya. Now more than ever the AU must rise up and in a serious manner address the growing insecurity in many African countries as well as the worrying frequency of terror attacks and come up with practical solutions that can move Africa to a state of peaceful coexistence.
A worrying trend is that there is an increase in cases of local youth turning out to be the attackers as was seen in the Garissa Attack. More and more young people are being radicalized and recruited into terrorists. The question the government needs to consider before this situation escalates into an uncontrollable level is why these young people are joining these groups. Are there more young people who’ve been pushed to the margins of society by the education system, or by the job market, or by the fact that they belong to a certain descent? These can only bring about a case of frustrated young people with nothing to lose. It is also important to evaluate the role that religion and religious institutions are playing in radicalizing young people. Religion has always had some autonomy from the state but with the recent events in the government need to step in and determine if these religious institutions are breeding grounds for homegrown terrorists.
Yesterday sadly marked one year since more than 200 girls were abducted from school in Chibok, Nigeria by armed militants. In the wake of the Garissa Attack in the university it is thus of great concern that militants are turning to schools to pass across a message to the people. Attacking schools is such a strong strategy because it robs off a country its future, the very best minds that were being honed in the confines of the school to take charge of the country in the near future. If there is one thing that proponents of terror are afraid of it is education because they know that with education then any country is on a trajectory towards development. By crippling the educational institutions then they cripple the efforts of a country towards self-sustainability. This should not however deter young people, on the other hand it should be a call for the government to invest more in education and for young people to go on and get an education to the highest level possible. It is hoped that there will be more commitment towards education especially in Garissa.
The loss of 147 lives also brings forth questions of how well versed we are in disaster preparedness and management. For one, two, three…and one hundred and forty seven young people to be shot where were the police? How fast was the response team? Is Kenya well equipped with enough resources to mitigate a disaster in the shortest time possible? Are state resources being used for private work by state officials rather than the intended work? How efficient are the communication systems within the Kenyan police in the event of a disaster? Could it have been possible to prevent all these deaths? Was the situation handled in the best way possible? Were the students well trained on how to react in case of a terror attack? No they were not because they did not go to the university to be shot to death by terrorists, nobody does. This however is slowly becoming a social reality and it is therefore prudent that all Kenyans be well versed on how to react in case of such an attack because that could make a difference of whether they live or not. Kenya at this moment needs a comprehensive disaster management policy that will also go ahead and have all the people informed on how to react in the event of disasters.
Finally, it is with deep sadness that we wish eternal rest to the 147 fallen Kenyan students, comfort and peace to their parents and families and assure them that they shall not be forgotten because they are us and we are them.
May they #RIP.