147 is not just a number

Raymond Machira ‘15

Contributing Writer

On the morning of April 2, armed terrorists stormed Garissa University and proceeded to lay to waste 147 young lives. This was a tragedy of monumental proportions to their families, friends and the whole nation of Kenya.

Watching these events was difficult for the Kenyans on campus. Most of the dead were college students, like ourselves, worried about grades, relationships and cool beats. I could have been there  that  day,  and  it would’ve  been  my  family  mourning. There was  nothing  in  my  past  that entitled me to be here and not at Garissa University that morning.

Two  students  in  particular  haunt  me  as  I  write  this.  There  is  Jeff  Macharia,  a  business information  sciences  student.  Jeff’s  father,  James  Macharia,  shares  my  father’s  first  and  last name. The elder Macharia, a handiman, hails from Othaya, like I do. Jeff was 19 years old.

“After  we  had  him,  we  were  advised  by  the  doctor  not  to  try  for  another  child,”  said  Mr. Macharia to CitizenTV. He borrowed against his tea harvest to raise his son’s school fees. “He was all I had.“

The Nairobi Wire reported that moments before she was murdered, Janet Akinyi texted her boyfriend. “Baby, they’re here. Everyone in Nancy’s room has been shot. Please pray for us. They’re coming here. We’re next.” she wrote. “Bye, baby and pray for us. Mily is here. May God help us!”.

We can talk about why world leaders won’t be marching the streets of Nairobi hand in hand, like they  did  in Paris.  Or  even  whether  they  should.  But  I  will  provide  context  for  this  event  and suggest what we can do about it.

The terrorists responsible for the mass murder is an Al-­Qaeda affiliate called al­-Shabaab, based in Somalia. For about three decades now, that country has known little peace. A brief calm ended in 2006 with a US ­supported invasion by Ethiopia. The al­-Shabaab are the remnants from then, and they believe they fight to defend Islam. They’ve attracted recruits and funds from all over the world.

Several  al-­Shabaab  leaders  have  been  killed  by  US  strikes.  After  each  successful  strike, younger  leaders  emerge,  eager  and  more  gruesome.  The  secrecy  of  these targeted killings make it hard to investigate their legality or efficacy. The bitter truth is that few

Americans care anyway.

Kenya  remained  uninvolved  in  Somali  politics  until  2011 when,  after  a  series  of  kidnappings in territory  bordering  Somalia,  Kenyan  troops  crossed  into Somalia.  The Garissa  attack  was  in retaliation  for  that  involvement. The  terrorists goaded the students before killing them; asking them to call their parents and tell them to ask the government to withdraw from Somalia.

Kenya now finds itself in a difficult position. Withdrawing from Somalia won’t stop the attacks.

Moreover,  the  country’s  weak  law  enforcement  systems  are  poorly  equipped  to  deal  with targeted  and  planned  malevolence.  As  a  vibrant  democracy,  the  government’s  hand  is restrained by law, diminishing the options available to it.

This attack was not about education; the university merely proved an easy target. Undoubtedly, Kenyans will keep enrolling their children in higher numbers. Ultimately,  and  hopefully  soon,  the  Kenyan  public  will  demand  more  from  their  own  political system. There  are  signs  this  is  already  beginning. This  attack,  and  the Westgate  Mall  attack before  it,  was  dissected  and  discussed  to  exhaustion.  Despite  lack  of  government  support, Kenyans have independently and successfully organized silent marches all over the country.

So what can we do when such things happen? For the religious, I urge prayer for the families of the bereaved. Pray also for the leaders of the  country and the world, that they may be  clear headed in their decisions.

Most  people  reading  this  are  citizens  of  the  most  powerful  country  on  Earth.  I  urge  you  to contemplate  the  privilege  and  obligation  this  encompasses.  Inform  yourself  about  the  issues. Understand  that  your  actions,  or  inaction  do  have  real  and  sometimes  tragic  consequences thousands of miles away. Above all, don’t be indifferent, don’t look away.

Word limits make a logical articles sound like someone hiccuped them into being. You can read a more detailed version on raymondmachira.wordpress.com.