A Kenyan university where nine months ago a deadly attack killed 148 students and staff has reopened. The school sees the symbolic significance of the re-opening as a victory against terrorism and al-Shabaab.
In April 2015, the al-Qarda affiliated militant group Al-Shabaab attacked students and staff at the Garissa University in Kenya, spreading death and terror. Among the people killed, 142 were students. On Monday, January 4, the university reopened its gates welcoming new and returning students and faculty. The university, which is the only one in the region, says it has adequate security in place to deter any terrorist attacks in the future.
The college principal, Ahmed Osman Warfa, has said:
“We don’t expect any more attacks because we have enough security. We have a police force inside the university, we have 30 police officers and we are hoping they will be able to take care of all the security measures inside and outside the university.”
Khadija Mohamed, a university counselor, said according to The Voice of America:
“Just by opening the university we have won the war against al-Shabaab.“
As she explains, returning to the university is difficult given the graphic memories of the massacre that took place and which she witnessed.
“Coming back to this college gives me a flashback of the killings,” the Associated Press cites her as saying. “As their counselor, the students were very close to me. They were like my children. I lost many of my children,” The Huffington Post reports on the story.
Although the majority of students, about 600, will officially return in September 2016, nearly 60 students are to start their classes this month.
Educators like high school teacher Ali Bashir believe that opening the university means that young people will focus on their education and steer away from radicalization.
The Somali militant group said the attack at Garissa was an act of revenge for Kenya’s military activity in Somalia.
Brian Singoro Wanyama, a political analyst in Kenya, told DW in an interview that indeed security measures in the university are effective. Wanyama says that reopening the school reveals how confident the government is regarding the security measures put in place. He said to DW:
“Garissa University is the only university in the area, so by reopening it, the government is reaffirming its readiness to work with communities in the region.”
A journalist attending the re-opening ceremony said according to QZ.com that there were no celebrations, bold statements or a lot of media attention. Rather:
“The mood was generally quiet. The few people who came were hugging, joshing, and reminiscing about that deadly dawn,” Abdi Latif Dahir is quoted as saying.
Reactions to the reopening news were mixed; some individuals point out that the trauma is still fresh, while others emphasize that it was time for the school to resume activities.
The school reopened partly due to protest and pressure by Kenyan activists who wanted to see the only college in the region reopen. Their protest even captured the attention of the Kenyan president, who promised last December that the country wouldn’t be intimidated by terrorist attacks.