2015, the University College
Management Board has decided to
close the University College with
Over dinner that evening I asked
Pastor Maluki about the wisdom of
closing the university. After all, it
was opened only four years earlier
as an explicit attempt to bring the
North Eastern Province into Kenya.
He replied, “Nobody wants to
come here anymore. Teachers and
students, all will stay away.”
Kenya is all too familiar with at-
tacks by extremist Islamic groups.
The deadliest in recent memory
was an Al-Qaeda attack on the U.S.
embassy in 1998, when 213 died.
But since then Al-Shabaab attacks
have become frequent events, espe-
cially since 2011, when Kenyan
armed forces moved into Somalia.
That move became Al-Shabaab’s
main excuse for its invasions.
Since then over 600 Kenyans have
Very few of the assaults received
media attention, except the West-gate Mall in September 2013 when
67 died. Frequent bus bombings
often get minimal if any news reporting – the same with roadside
ambushes and church attacks.
(Roman Catholic and Africa In-
land churches in Garissa were at-
tacked on July 1, 2012, killing more
than a dozen people.)
Kenyans, as columnist Joseph
Warungu is quoted by the BBC as
saying, “have stoically absorbed the
impact of each assault with a three-step reaction – shock, anger and
then a shrug.” Garissa University’s
tragedy is causing a different reaction in the country.
This attack is different because it
affects families across the country.
Further, and more tragically, the
murdered students were from poor
families who struggled to send their
children to university. Rich parents
in Kenya send their children to
Nairobi, Kisumu or Eldoret, never to
Garissa’s university. But the parents
of the slain students sold their farm
plots or cattle, or borrowed from
family and neighbours to give their
children a future with education. A
poor child’s completed education
would benefit the whole village.
Kenya – literally village by village,
region by region – mourns the killings at Garissa University. This didn’t
happen in past terrorist attacks.
Professor Kirimi Henry Kir-
iamiti, who served as deputy prin-
cipal of Garissa University College
until its closure, confirmed this as
we spoke in his Eldoret home. “This
attack is different. In Kenya you
have to understand the importance
of the firstborn. They concentrated
the attack on the second year stu-
dents in this dorm,” he said, as he
pointed to the map of the campus
on his computer tablet. By target-
ing the older students – the first-
born from the villages – Al-Shabaab
turned this into an attack on the
heart of the family in Kenya.
A surviving student, Frederick
Gitonga, was the chairman of
Garissa University’s Christian
Union. He feels strongly the burden
of supporting the families of the
“I and two other Fellowship of
Christian University Students’ offi-
cials will travel to Bungoma [410
km northwest of Nairobi] to lay our
friends Edward, Evans, Emily and
Tobias to rest. Then I will attend
Sammy and Philomena’s burials in
Kitui [180 km east of Nairobi], be-
fore I finally go home to rest.”
To pay his respects he has to
travel the width of Kenya.
Not only have families and villages felt the loss of the students, the
tragedy has impacted institutions of
higher learning across the nation.
They are closing from east to west.
In Garissa, not only has the university closed, but the Kenya Medical
Training College’s Garissa campus is
closing “for fear of terrorist attack,”
according to an April 26 report in
Kenya’s daily newspaper The Nation.
The April 27 edition reported Migori
Teachers’ Training College will
close for the same reason. Migori is
372 km west and south of Nairobi,
over 730 km from Garissa.
With increased Al-Shabaab activity, and now the whole nation
reeling in grief, the relatively stable
country is mourning national loss
and grief – a likely part of Al-Shabaab’s goal all along. /FT
C. David Donaldson of Guelph, Ont.,
travelled to Kenya after the massacre to
report on this story for Faith Today. He is a writer
and teacher who leads short-term mission groups
to Kenya twice a year ( www.cdaviddonaldson.com).
Kenyans attend a memorial concert in Nairobi for the slain Garissa University students.
BY TARGE TING
IN TO AN
AT TACK ON THE
HEART OF THE