147 Mercilessly MassacredCatherine Birri | April 16, 2015
“With each blast of the gun, I thought I was going to die,” said Collins Wetangula, an eyewitness of the April 2 massacre at the University of Garissa in Kenya. Student Omar Ibrahim observed, “We saw many many bodies, some did not have heads.” Such brutality claimed 147 lives. They were killed from hatred. Only hatred could have planned and executed a massacre against those who believed in a different faith. Only hatred could inspire such ugly actions against young innocent lives.
The perpetrators did not see human beings with each one’s talents, aspirations, dreams, and even faults in front of them. They did not see each unique personality of those they massacred. All they saw were targets. Targets were all those who were not Muslims; they were Christians. The gunman reportedly separated the Muslims and Christians. “If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot,” remembered Wetangula. Hundreds of students who were not immediately shot and killed were injured or taken hostage and then surrounded by explosives.
The masked gunmen were connected with the Al-Shabaab terrorist group. The Kenyan military forces came and ended the attack. As they shot terrorists, the terrorists exploded from explosives they previously strapped to their bodies. They came prepared for their mission. The Al-Shabaab has instigated terrorist attacks across Kenya over the past few years. Back in 2013, they were responsible for the death of 67 people at the Westgate shopping mall.
With the tragedy of the massacre, the Kenyan government this past Sunday called for the 400,000 Somali Muslim refugees to return to their own country in three months. Their demands are from reports that the Al-Shabaab is using the Dadaab refuge camp as a recruitment center for the terrorist group. Kenya’s small population of 4.3 million with 11% of the population being Muslim, and in wake of the recent massacre, it becomes clearer why 400,000 Muslim refugees appear threatening. Kenya’s government is trying to find ways to protect their people from future violence at the hands of Al-Shabaab.
On Tuesday, at a briefing in Geneva, the United Nations refugee agency responded with a negative reply. UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl stated:
“UNHCR too has been shocked and appalled by the Garissa attack… UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya and we understand well the current regional security situation and the seriousness of the threats Kenya is facing. We also recognize the obligation of the Government to ensure the security of its citizens and other people living in Kenya, including refugees.
UNHCR is nevertheless concerned that abruptly closing the Dadaab camps and forcing refugees back to Somalia would have extreme humanitarian and practical consequences, and would be a breach of Kenya’s international obligations.”
She ended the briefing urging the Kenyan government to rethink the matter.
At the moment Kenya is boiling. The damage from the massacre is still fresh in the minds and hearts of the Kenyan people. The wounds are not yet healed. At the same time there are those who are seeking to hurt the nation. The Al-Shabaab has not recounted their terrorist ways, rather they have claimed responsibility for the attack. The tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in the area are far from over. Kenya’s future is undetermined; however, it seems unlikely that tonight the whole country will go to sleep and wake up as if nothing had happened.
The premeditation of the attack including a specific location and in virtue of being a terrorist attack makes the massacre slightly reminiscent of 9/11. The difference though is that one stayed on the news for many months following the events, and the other seems to have faded into the background. As it is fading, major news organizations favor headlines concerned with Hilary Clinton’s campaign for presidency or with the conviction of a former NFL player for murder. The major news organizations are passing on focusing on the story of intolerance. Where those discriminated against were maliciously massacred. Where Christians were victims. Where questions still remain unanswered concerning the event and the families and communities of the innocent victims are still grieving. Investigating those questions, finding out about the 147 who died, or learning more about the perpetrators seems to bore the media and to be irrelevant to them.
The 147 who died should not be forgotten so soon. They are reminders of the effects of hatred and religious discrimination. Great acts of evil are not only of bygone eras, they are still possible. If acts of brutality and cruelty are forgotten so fast, it makes the world, and in this case Kenya, vulnerable not only to repetition, but also too greater acts of evil.