Kenyans express grief over the Garissa massacre


When five gunmen broke into Garissa University College in Eastern Kenya on the morning of April 2, they launched the nation’s deadliest attack in 17 years. The armed militants, who were later identified as members of the Al-Shabaab, killed 142 university students, three soldiers and three police officers in a span of 15 hours, before were either shot by Kenyan forces or detonated suicide vests.

According to a report released by the Kenyan Police, the militant group stormed in at dawn and immediately took over 700 students hostage, releasing Muslims while killing Christians. However, when the Kenyan Defense Forces were deployed, three of the four dormitories were evacuated, and only the female dormitories remained in danger, for the gunmen remained hidden and continued to attack. As the siege came to an end around nightfall, all 587 students who escaped, 79 of those who were injured, have since been located and evacuated.

“The Kenyans are deeply saddened, but not shaken,” said Stanley Kalu (12), student at Rosslyn Academy in Kenya. “They understand that this is a war and do not fear the Al-Shabaab, for attacks of this kind are not signals of [strength], but rather a show of desperation from the terrorist group.”

This attack was an extension of the Westgate terrorist bombing of 2013, lead by the same militant extremist group, Al-Shabaab. Echoing the reasons for which the Somalis had formerly struck Kenya, this attack was caused by the conflict of Kenyan occupation in Muslim territory, religion and revenge. According to the BBC, the Al-Shabaab vowed that it would “stop at nothing to avenge the deaths of [its] Muslim brothers until the [Kenyan] government ceases its oppression.”

“Although there could be additional factors that sparked the attack, [such extreme actions] are only deepening the gap between the two countries,” Elizabeth Huh (12) said. “Without communication between the governments to reach a middle ground, each nation will continue dealing with the [deep-entrenched conflict] in its own way.”

In response to the Al-Shabaab’s violence, the Kenyan government has demanded that the UN shut down the Dadaab refugee camp located near the border with Somalia, and relocate the 500,000 Somalis. In addition to this pending request, Kenya has also taken more immediate action, such as building a 700km-long wall along the entire border with Somalia to protect the country from the Al-Shabaab.

In midst of this attack, supporters of the victims have voiced concern over the lack of global support for the deaths at Garissa University College. While over 3.5 million tweets with the hash tag ‘Je Suis Charlie’ circulated, nearly 48,000 tweets with ‘Je Suis Kenyan’ were posted worldwide. According to Jin Kim (11), a Korean student in the International School of Kenya, such a phenomenon could be explained by the frequency of similar acts of brutality in Africa, which paled the Garissa attack in comparison to attacks like those on Charlie Hebdo.

“While “Je Suis Charlie” did amass more worldwide media attention, [it was because Charlie Hebdo] was an attack on free speech, and fundamental human right,” Stanley said. “However, the Garissa attack was mindless slaughter, which made it less relatable. Furthermore, because newsworthiness is based on relevance, white people [must have] found the deaths of other white people more relevant than African deaths.”