TIME Kenya

Kenya Asks U.N. to Shut Down Refugee Camp for Somalis

Refugees who live in Dadaab refugee camp, near the Kenya-Somalia border, walking to supply water on Oct. 4, 2014.
Cem Genco—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Refugees who live in Dadaab refugee camp, near the Kenya-Somalia border, walking to supply water on Oct. 4, 2014.

Deputy President tells UNHCR it has three months to close the camp hosting more than 400,000 Somalis

(NAIROBI, Kenya) — The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has three months to close a refugee camp in eastern Kenya and send the more than 400,000 Somalis living there back to their country or else the Kenyan government will relocate them, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has said.

The Kenyan government says the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya has become a recruitment center for the extremist group al-Shabab whose gunmen last week killed 148 people at the country’s Garissa College University. Ruto said in a rally on Saturday that Kenya must be secured at all costs.

“We have asked the UNHCR to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves. The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa,” Ruto said in a statement distributed by his press office.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed a sharp response to last week’s attack at the university. Kenyan warplanes attacked suspected militant positions in Somalia, and the government said Wednesday that it was freezing accounts of organizations and individuals suspected of financing Islamic extremists.

Al-Shabab militants have vowed retribution on Kenya for deploying troops to Somalia in October 2011 to fight the militant group blamed for cross-border attacks.

The April 2 Garissa University College attack is one of the worst attacks extremists have carried out in the country, second only to the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.

The opposition has called for the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia, a call that the government has dismissed.

TIME Terrorism

These 5 Facts Explain Terrorism in Kenya

Family members sit on a bench as they wait to view the bodies of their loved ones who had been killed in an attack on Garissa University College, at a mortuary in Nairobi on April 8, 2015.
Dai Kurokawa—EPA Family members sit on a bench as they wait to view the bodies of their loved ones who had been killed in an attack on Garissa University College, at a mortuary in Nairobi on April 8, 2015.

Porous borders,a bad economy and corruption have made Kenya a sitting target for al-Shabab

The tragic Garissa University College attack in Kenya on April 2 led to 147 deaths and a global outpouring of shock and sympathy. But it didn’t approach the intense level of commentary—from journalists and world leaders alike—that the Charlie Hebdo attack in France garnered, despite a far higher death toll. To put this tragedy in context, it’s important to understand the state of play between al-Shabab and Kenya. Here are five stats on the attacks that cover everything from the porous Kenya-Somalia border to the cash incentive for would-be terrorist recruits.

1. Kenya suffers more than its share

The fight against al-Shabab in East Africa is a regional effort. With 3,664 people deployed, Kenya provides fewer personnel to the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia than Uganda, Ethiopia or Burundi do. Yet it is Kenya that has borne the brunt of al-Shabab’s attacks outside Somalia. Since 2012, the group has killed over 600 people in Kenya. There has been only one major attack outside Somalia’s borders that didn’t target Kenya: the 2010 Kampala bombings. The Garissa siege was the deadliest terror attack in Kenya since the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi.

(The Boston Globe, Council on Foreign Relations, The New York Times, The Washington Post)

2. The problem of porous borders

A porous border helps Al-Shabab target Kenya. Though the Kenyan government has announced plans to build a wall along parts of the 424 mile-long border with Somalia, the structure could cost as much as $17 billion—and it wouldn’t address other glaring issues. Kenya’s police force is among the most corrupt in East Africa; members of al-Shabab can easily buy passage and visas from officials. Payments to officers made up almost 50% of all bribes in Kenya in 2014. Garissa County is particularly vulnerable. The area is home to Dadaab, one of the world’s biggest refugee camps with over 336,000 Somalis. Garissa was the victim of more than a fifth of al-Shabab’s attacks in Kenya between 2009 and 2013.

(Global Terrorism Database, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, BBC)

3. Weak security

The siege at Garissa lasted nearly 15 hours. Yet, security forces were only deployed 7 hours after the attack began, and there was a two-hour briefing when they arrived in the area. They didn’t enter the university until 11 hours had passed. Why the glacial response? The two fixed-wing planes that security forces flew in were too small for all of the officers and their equipment; no police choppers were available. Despite legislation passed in 2011 to overhaul the police, intelligence and defense forces in Kenya, not much progress has been made. Anti-terror police units in Nairobi have a budget as low as $735 per month for operations, and police officers are paid around $200 per month. For comparison, some Kenyan parliamentarians earn up to $15,000 monthly. According to some estimates, over 300,000 people are employed as private security guards in Kenya, whereas Kenya’s police force numbers approximately 60,000.

(The Boston Globe, Daily Mail, Daily Nation, Aljazeera)

4. Local tensions

Muslims make up about a tenth of Kenya’s population, and they reside primarily in the Northeast and along the coast. These communities lag in development, due to limited public and private investment, giving rise to local tension and instability. The northeast region bordering Somalia, an area the size of Mississippi, has less than 100 miles of tarmacked roads. Kenyan-Somali clan conflict and banditry has led to past conflicts in the area, including the 1980 Garissa massacre and the 1984 Wagalla massacre—resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 ethnic Somalis. Though Garissa County is a predominantly ethnic Somali area, students from across Kenya attend the university. The Shabab attackers singled out Christians for execution.

(The Guardian, The World Post, Aljazeera, Climate Change and Security Conference, The New York Times)

5. Recruiting made easy

Al-Shabab translates to ‘the youth’ in Arabic, a fitting name for an organization that feeds off limited opportunities for young people in the region. According to BBC News, roughly a quarter of al-Shabab’s 7,000-9,000 forces are Kenyan. Many of them were attracted to al-Shabab’s high salaries for new recruits, which are reportedly more than $1,000. Meanwhile, the average monthly wage in Kenya is $76 ($912 annual). Some 70% of working class youth are currently unemployed.

(BBC News (a), BBC News (b), Reuters, Aljazeera)

TIME Kenya

Kenyans Are Using the #147NotJustaNumber Hashtag to Honor Those Killed at Garissa

Kenyans attend a candle lit vigil late Tuesday at Uhuru park in capital Nairobi in memory of the people killed in last week's deadly attack on northern Kenya's Garissa University College, on April 7, 2015.
Recep Canik—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Kenyans attend a candle lit vigil late Tuesday at Uhuru park in capital Nairobi in memory of the people killed in last week's deadly attack on Kenya's Garissa University College, on April 7, 2015.

The powerful campaign aims to "humanize the victims of terror"

Kenyans have launched a social media campaign to remember those who died at last week’s massacre at Garissa University College in eastern Kenya, where terrorist al-Shabaab gunmen killed 148 people, most of them students aged between 19 and 23.

Using the hashtag #147notjustanumber, people are posting pictures of loved ones to Twitter and often sharing biographical details to give faces to the people behind the grim, anonymous death toll.

Among the many heartbreaking stories of loss is 22-year-old Gideon Kirui, whose whole village had raised money for him to go to university. There is Selpher Wandia, 21, who dreamed of becoming a teacher, and Peter Masinde, 32, an officer who was shot as he entered the campus. He leaves behind a pregnant wife.

Ory Okolloh Mwangi started the campaign on Sunday, when the number of victims was still being counted. She told the Wall Street Journal that the hashtag was “an effort to humanize the victims of terror.”

On Wednesday, hundreds of people held a candle-lit vigil in the capital, Nairobi to remember those who died, the BBC reports. Ahead of the vigil, about 2,500 people marched in Garissa and several hundred in Nairobi, demanding tighter security at colleges and campuses and answers for how the attacks could happen.

TIME Kenya

Kenyans Angry Over Delayed Police Response to Deadly Attack

Kenyans during a vigil at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya April 7, 2015
Ben Curtis—AP Kenyans during a vigil at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on April 7, 2015

There was a seven-hour delay between the time police learned of a deadly attack on a college and when the they finally arrived at the scene

(NAIROBI) — Public anger spilled into the streets of the Kenyan capital Tuesday, a fury stirred by the seven-hour delay between the time authorities learned of a deadly attack by gunmen on a college and when police commandoes finally arrived at the scene.

Authorities were informed of the assault just before dawn Thursday at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya, where four militants killed 148 people before being slain by police in the early evening.

Questions have arisen that the delayed arrival of the police could have contributed to the high death toll as the country confronts the threat from the Islamic extremists from the Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group.

During a demonstration by about 250 students, they passed a truck carrying security forces with red berets and rifles and shouted at the troops: “Where were you?”

The troops did not respond.

The students also banged on the sides of a police vehicle and converged briefly outside Kenyan police headquarters, again demanding: “Where were you?”

The Kenyan military, which has a barracks in the town of Garissa, was the first to respond with some help from local police, the government has said. The police department’s paramilitary tactical unit, known as the Recce Squad, was briefed about the attack but put on standby because the military said it could handle the attack, said a senior police officer who was involved in Thursday’s actions.

It was only after hours had gone by and the military had suffered casualties that a decision was made to send in the Recce unit, which is trained in close-quarters combat and hostage rescues and is based in Nairobi, he said. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press.

Military spokesman Col. David Obonyo did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment.

With police helicopters not operational because of mechanical problems, the Recce Squad flew the 200 miles (325 kilometers) to Garissa on two small planes that could not carry the whole unit, forcing other members to travel by road. Once the tactical team went into the besieged campus at 5 p.m. — almost 12 hours after the attack began — its members killed the gunmen and secured the site within a half-hour. By then, 148 people were dead.

Kenya has vowed severe retaliation against al-Shabab, and its military on Monday announced it had carried out airstrikes on militant camps in Somalia.

The lack of a coordinated response to an extremist attack also plagued Kenya’s security forces after al-Shabab struck Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in September 2013, killing 67 people. The army stormed the mall without checking with the Recce unit whose members had already infiltrated the site and were closing in on the attackers. That led to a friendly fire incident that killed one Recce officer and forced the elite police team to withdraw.

“We have refused to learn from the Westgate attack. What was the Kenyan army doing for seven hours before the Recce team came in? Were they just hanging about? We saw KDF (Kenya Defense Force or the Kenyan army) camping outside of the university as the killing went on inside,” said Patrick Gathara, a commentator and award-winning political cartoonist.

Inter-service rivalries may also be playing a role in coordinating responses to extremist attacks, and security officials also complain of corruption and a lack of funding. A government commission looked into the procurement of the grounded police helicopters, suspected fraud and recommended an audit of their purchase.

“The systemic corruption that afflicts all our institutions infects our security services too. This continues to be the dead weight our efforts against terrorism have to carry,” said Kenyan corruption expert John Githongo, currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.

A number of Kenyan universities have increased security following the Garissa attack, hiring more guards and urging students to be vigilant. But some students are fuming over what they allege is a government failure to act on intelligence and prevent violence by al-Shabab, which has vowed more attacks as reprisal for Kenya sending troops into Somalia.

“We are not safe!” Kenyan students chanted Tuesday.

Their slogan captured the unsettled mood in many Kenyan schools and the country as a whole.

“We might be next,” said Walter Mutai, a 22-year-old statistics student at Moi University. “These people, they can target anywhere.”

Ricky Thomas Nyakach, a 22-year-old student who plans to study law this year, said Kenya is struggling with a “badly flawed security system” in which security forces have poor equipment as well as low morale because of inadequate salaries.

“I feel vulnerable as a Kenyan citizen,” he said.

Wearing a suit and tie, Nyakach stood in a park before the rally and said student demands include “a total overhaul” of Kenya’s security apparatus, the construction of a memorial to honor those killed in the Garissa attack, and the payment of funeral expenses and about $22,000 in compensation to families of the victims.

The protesters presented a petition to the office of President Uhuru Kenyatta, but some were skeptical whether they could achieve meaningful change.

The demonstration was mournful at times. There were signs that read: “You remain in our hearts!” and “RIP comrades.”

Students and other Kenyans gathered at dusk for a vigil for the victims, lighting candles, holding flowers, reading their names aloud and erecting a white wooden cross for each of those killed in Garissa.

On Tuesday, police presented five suspects in court, three of whom allegedly supplied guns to the men who carried out the killings. The court granted police 30 more days to investigate the suspects before charging them. Police said they want more time to investigate a sixth suspect, a Tanzanian citizen who is being held in Garissa. The Interior Ministry had said they had arrested the Tanzanian who was hiding in a ceiling with grenades, but the police charge sheet says he was found under a bed and was not a student at the university.

TIME Kenya

Kenya Attack Victims Had Big Plans for Life

Ginton Mwachofi, the guardian of Bryson Mwakuleghwa, 21, who died in the Garissa University College attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, April 6, 2015
Ben Curtis—AP Ginton Mwachofi, the guardian of Bryson Mwakuleghwa, 21, who died in the Garissa University College attacks in Nairobi on April 6, 2015

Mourners recall their relatives and friends killed in the attack in Garissa, Kenya

(NAIROBI) — He was a soccer player with a fighting spirit, a talented keyboard player with “golden fingers” who was intent on succeeding in life, his guardian said. But Bryson Mwakuleghwa, a 21-year-old student at Garissa University College in Kenya, never had the chance to make his dreams happen.

Mwakuleghwa was among 148 people who were killed in an attack by Islamic militants Thursday on the college in Garissa, near the border with Somalia, where the al-Shabab extremist group is based. On Monday, relatives of the dead converged on a funeral parlor in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for the grim task of identifying the dead. Some grieved quietly, while others emerged from viewing bodies of lost family members in physical distress, wailing as Red Cross officials escorted and even carried them to tents for counseling.

Several mourners interviewed by The Associated Press outside the Chiromo Funeral Parlour of the University of Nairobi spoke wistfully of those they lost, sometimes using the same words — humble, devout, studious and a role model — to describe youths who were trying hard to forge a career, leaving home and traveling many hours by bus to Garissa to take advantage of the education opportunities there.

“I knew Bryson as a young man who grew up in the church” and performed in its choir, said his guardian, Ginton Mwachofi.

The young man’s death hit hard in Taita-Taveta, the coastal county where he grew up, Mwachofi said.

“It was a big blow for the people of Taita-Taveta because we don’t have enough people studying in university,” said the guardian, who also coached the youth in soccer. “They can’t believe that Bryson is no more.”

Mwakuleghwa, who was studying education, was a stoic who rarely revealed whether he was happy or sad, hungry or thirsty, Mwachofi said.

Four gunmen died in Thursday’s attack after security forces entered the campus to stop the slaughter of the students. Survivors said the gunmen targeted Christians and said they would spare Muslims and women, though there were numerous accounts of indiscriminate shooting.

Virginia Simiyu, who was 24 years old when she died in the attack, was a long-distance runner on her high school team, a leader of a Christian group at the Garissa college and was “born to be nice,” said her aunt, Phyllis Wabuke. Simiyu, a student of “human resource management,” was also a role model to her three younger siblings and promised her mother that she would help lift the family out of poverty once she got a job, Wabuke said.

“‘Mama, I’ll build you a house,'” Wabuke quoted Simiyu as telling her mother. According to Wabuke, Simiyu’s mother had hopes for her oldest child, saying: “‘If this one makes it, my life will be different.'”

Now Simiyu’s mother is “broken down” with grief and “is not in a state of mind that would recognize anything now,” Wabuke said. The mother is sometimes tied down with ropes to control her hysteria and is being counseled by professional helpers, she said.

Another 21-year-old victim, Romana Chelagat Sambu, was studying commerce at the Garissa college and “had a vision of finishing her education,” said her uncle, David Tomno Ngetich. Sambu was focused, could endure hardship and was good at “talking to people” about responsibility and the Christian faith, he said.

The last time Ngetich saw his niece was several months ago in Nairobi before she headed to Garissa to resume her studies. He recalled that his wife noticed his niece was wearing nice sandals and asked her to bring back a pair on her return from Garissa.

Despite periodic shrieks from weeping, collapsing family members, the scene outside the funeral home was relatively calm as people waited their turn to enter the building or sat quietly outside on plastic chairs.

“If there is anybody amongst us who has not gone through the identification, kindly come,” a voice said over a loudspeaker. The pungent smell of the bodies wafted in the breeze around the building and some people wore surgical masks to ward off the odor.

A sign on the building said: “Body Reception. Embalming Laboratory. Cold Storage Room.”

Mwachofi last saw Bryson, the young pianist with “golden fingers,” at Christmas.

The guardian recalled: “He promised that he would succeed, that he would do anything possible to succeed in life.”

TIME Kenya

Kenya Launches Airstrikes Against Al-Shabab After University Attack

Soldiers from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) patrol inside the Garissa University College compound that was the scene of last week's attack by al-Shabab gunmen, in Garissa, Kenya, on Apr. 6, 2015.
AP Soldiers from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) patrol inside the Garissa University College compound that was the scene of last week's attack by al-Shabab gunmen, in Garissa, Kenya, on Apr. 6, 2015.

The air strikes occurred in the Gedo region of Somalia

(NAIROBI, Kenya) — Kenya launched air strikes against Islamic militants in Somalia following an extremist attack on a Kenyan college that killed 148 people, a military spokesman said Monday.

Warplanes attacked positions of the al-Shabab militant group on Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning, said Col. David Obonyo of the Kenyan military.

Al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the college attack Thursday in the Kenyan town of Garissa. Four gunmen died in the assault.

The air strikes occurred in the Gedo region of Somalia, Obonyo said.

“This is part of continuing operations, not just in response to Garissa,” he said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had vowed harsh measures against al-Shabab following the slaughter at Garissa, which is near the border with Somalia. Kenya has troops in Somalia as part of an African Union force to attack al-Shabab and shore up the beleaguered Somali government. Kenya has carried out air strikes before.

Al-Shabab said it attacked students at Garissa College University as a reprisal for Kenya sending troops into Somalia.

TIME Crime

Kenyan Government Names Suspected Mastermind of University Attack

Senior Al-Shabab officer Mohamed Mohamud alias Sheik Dulayadayn addresses in Mogadishu, Somalia on Jan. 1, 2011.
Feisal Omar—Reuters Senior Al-Shabab officer Mohamed Mohamud alias Sheik Dulayadayn addresses in Mogadishu, Somalia on Jan. 1, 2011.

Mohamed Mohamud's al Qaeda-linked group has launched deadly attacks on Kenyans before

Mohamed Mohamud is the architect of a terrorist attack on Garissa University College in Kenya that killed nearly 150 people on Thursday, the government said Sunday.

The senior leader of the terrorist group Al-Shabaab is known by the aliases Dulyadin and Gamadhere, and is credited by Kenya’s Interior Ministry with “having an extensive terrorist network within Kenya,” according to documents obtained by CNN.

The ministry posted a “Most Wanted” notice for Mohamud on Twitter, offering 20 million shillings, or $215,000, for his capture.

The Al-Shabaab group is affiliated with al-Qaeda and based in Somalia. The militant group’s reach extends over the Kenyan border to the Dadaab refugee camp, the largest in the world, in Kenya’s North Eastern Province near Somalia.

TIME Kenya

Gunman in Kenya University Massacre Was Government Official’s Son

A Kenya Defence Forces soldier stands guard before they ended a siege by gunmen in the university campus of the northeastern town of Garissa on April 2, 2015.
Carl de Souza—AFP/Getty Images A Kenya Defence Forces soldier stands guard before the siege by gunmen at Garissa University College, in northeastern Kenya, ends on April 2, 2015.

At least 148 people were killed in Thursday's attack

(GARISSA, Kenya) — One of the gunmen who slaughtered 148 people at a college in Kenya was identified Sunday as the law-school-educated son of a Kenyan government official, underscoring the inroads Islamic extremists have made in recruiting young people to carry out attacks against their own country.

Abdirahim Mohammed Abdullahi, who was killed by security forces Thursday along with the three other militants who stormed Garissa University College, was the son of a government chief in Mandera County, which borders Somalia, Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told The Associated Press.

The chief had reported his son missing last year and feared he had gone to Somalia, Njoka said.

Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the bloodbath, saying it was retribution for Kenya’s sending of troops to Somalia to fight the extremists. The attackers separated Christian students from Muslim ones and massacred the Christians.

The news that one of the gunmen was Kenyan highlights the challenges faced by the government in preventing terrorist attacks. The danger comes not only from neighboring Somalia but also from within Kenya.

Kenyans make up the largest number of foreign fighters in al-Shabab, according to experts. Hundreds of Kenyan youths have trained with al-Shabab and then returned to Kenya, posing a major security threat, according to former police chief Mathew Iteere.

Kenya’s government has said another source of instability is the country’s refugee camps, with more than 423,000 Somali refugees.

Abdullahi graduated from the University of Nairobi with a law degree in 2013 and was seen as a “brilliant upcoming lawyer,” according to Njoka.

Njoka said it is important for parents to inform authorities if their children disappear or seem to be embracing extremism.

Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the security response to the Garissa attack.

Police waited seven hours before sending a special tactical unit into the college to fight the gunmen, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported Sunday.

When the specially trained police finally went in, it took them only 30 minutes to kill the four attackers and stop the siege, the paper said.

Army barracks are just 500 meters (540 yards) from the college, and military officers said they could handle the attack, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Only after three soldiers were killed did the army call in the police tactical unit, he said.

Before the massacre, northeastern Kenya had seen other deadly attacks by al-Shabab against Christians.

Several hundred grieving Christians marked Easter Sunday at a Catholic church in Garissa, where Bishop Joseph Alessandro drew a parallel between the ordeal of Jesus Christ and that of the stricken town.

“We join the sufferings of the relatives and the victims with the sufferings of Jesus,” he told the congregation at Our Lady of Consolation Church. “The victims will rise again with Christ.”

As for al-Shabab’s followers, Alessandro said, “You don’t know who they are. They could be your neighbors.”

Security forces patrolled the perimeter of the church, the site of a grenade attack by militants three years ago that wounded worshipers.

“We just keep on praying that God can help us, to comfort us in this difficult time,” said Dominick Odhiambo, a worshipper who said he planned to abandon his job as a plumber in Garissa and leave for his hometown because he was afraid.


Odula contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.

TIME Al-Shabaab

Kenyans Blame Corrupt Government for Escalating al-Shabab Violence

Plainclothes policemen stand in front of a crowd which came to see bodies of suspected Garissa University College attackers in a school compound in Garissa
Goran Tomasevic—Reuters Plainclothes policemen stand in front of a crowd which came to see bodies of suspected Garissa University College attackers in a school compound in Garissa, Kenya on April 4, 2015.

Many Kenyans have lost faith in their government's ability to keep them safe

When al-Shabab militants stormed University College of Garissa early on Thursday morning no one knew that by the end of the day 148 would be dead, constituting Kenya’s deadliest terrorist attack in 17 years.

What most Kenyans did know is that they had lost faith in their government’s ability to keep Kenya safe from al-Shabab’s increasingly deadly presence. Since 2011, it is estimated that more than 300 people have been killed by terrorist attacks in Kenya.

“This is an issue of security and the government. It’s not an issue that is starting now — it’s been an issue that has been going on for a while. The security matter should be taken seriously and they’ve completely neglected the issue,” said Hussein Malaam, a student at University College of Garissa who was awoken early on the morning of the attacks by a phone call from a friend warning him not to go to school. That was when Malaam started to hear gunshots coming from the nearby university.

The gunmen first fired indiscriminately into the campus before zeroing in on students in their dormitories, most of whom were fast asleep when the attack started. By midmorning, students had been evacuated from three of four of the student hostels. At the last hostel, gunmen reportedly separated Muslim students out for freedom, taking non-Muslim students hostage or executing them on the spot.

“The people were trapped here for 13 hours — where was the government? They failed to protect their people,” said Farhiya Haji, a high school student from a nearby village who had walked two hours the day after the attack to see what was happening for herself at the gates of the university. “We don’t feel safe here and the government isn’t doing anything to protect us.”

By Saturday, most surviving students had been bused to Nairobi to be reunited with their families. Those critically injured had been airlifted to the capital city in the preceding days. Around midmorning, emergency response teams received word that several surviving students had been found in the university. They had climbed the rafters to hide in the ceiling, waiting there for days as security teams cleared the university of remaining students.

The four terrorists were killed and their bodies were brought to the morgue at Garissa Hospital on Saturday where local and international forensics teams performed autopsies. The bodies, bloating and rotting in northeastern Kenya’s sweltering sun, were then displayed at Garissa Primary School for the community, searching for a sense of justice or certainty, to see.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry told the Associated Press on Sunday that one of the gunmen was identified as the son of a Kenyan government official, a law graduate who was reported missing last year and thought to have traveled to Somalia.

Kenya’s security situation has continued to deteriorate since the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, where 67 people were killed. Late last year, al-Shabab militants carried out two attacks in Mandera, also in northern Kenya. In the first attack, 28 people were killed and in the second, 36. Both times gunmen identified Muslims and freed them while shooting or decapitating non-Muslims.

“It’s not that al-Shabab is so good at what they’re doing — the government just does such a terrible job that they make them look good. Al-Shabab is probably at its weakest point since 2006,” said Abdullahi B. Halakhe, a Nairobi-based East Africa researcher with Amnesty International.

The university is located just off Kismayo Road, the main drag that cuts through Garissa and stretches about 90 miles to the Somali border; a border whose porous nature is blamed for a great deal of the insecurity in Kenya. “It’s very clear that the Kenya police is probably the most corrupt institution in this country, folks crossing the border have to pay less than $200 and they can cross over,” said Halakhe, referring to the ease with which anyone, including al-Shabab, can enter Kenya.

“Entrenched corruption in the security system allows al-Shabab to move freely in and out of Kenya and carry out such attacks with ease,” said prominent Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi in a statement online.

Kenya ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, landing 145th out of 174 on Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perception Index. The Kenyan police rank as the most corrupt institution in Kenya.

Earlier in the week, Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission published a report detailing allegations of corruption against 175 government officials. In a potentially positive step, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a speech in response to the report pressuring the public officials named to step down pending investigations. Five ministers have done so.

“The biggest problem in this country that needs to be tackled is corruption. Corruption is the biggest contribution to insecurity in this country. Its an impediment to everything — without it we could be a very rich nation,” said Hassan Sheikh Ali, the former leader of Garissa University.

In an address to the nation on Saturday, Kenyatta reiterated his concern about “the pervasive threat of corruption to our aspirations as a people.

“What else but corruption of the worst and most criminal kind,” he continued, “is it for Kenyans to finance, hide and recruit on behalf of al-Shabab?”

In addition to worries about corruption, many have accused the Kenyan government of not taking credible security threats seriously. “There was no doubt that northeastern Kenya has become insecure,” said Rashid Abdi, an Independent Horn of Africa analyst. “I think there was enough intelligence that education institutions and basically any facilities with non-Muslims in northeastern Kenya were at risk; I’m surprised that that college wasn’t sufficiently protected.”

Universities across Kenya had issued security warnings in the weeks preceding the attacks including on March 25 when the chief security officer of the University of Nairobi issued a terror-threat alert that stated, “Intelligence reports indicate that the al-Shabab terror group is planning retaliatory attacks on vital installations in Nairobi including a major university.”

Britain and Australia also issued fresh travel advisories earlier in the week, warning citizens of Kenya’s increasing insecurity. President Kenyatta fired back, stating that Kenya was as safe as anywhere else. “The travel advisories being issued by our friends are not genuine. I have not heard of any travel advisory issued to those visiting Paris, which recently experienced a terror attack,” he said.

Al-Shabab has consistently attributed its attacks on Kenyan soil to Kenya’s 2011 invasion of Somalia. Titled Operation Linda Nchi, the invasion was allegedly in response to the kidnapping of Westerners in northeastern Kenya. “Since October 2011, Kenya has been the most insecure that we have seen in decades. If going into Somalia was to secure Kenya, then they have failed,” said Halakhe. “The elephant in the room [is] what is Kenya’s plan as far as Somalia is concerned?” added Halakhe. “What does the exit plan look like? Is it two years, is it three years?”

President Kenyatta responded to the attacks by saying, “I also assure the nation that my government has undertaken appropriate deployment to the affected area, and is fully seized of the situation … This is a moment for everyone throughout the country to be vigilant as we continue to confront and defeat our enemies.”

He also directed the inspector general of police to fast-track the enrollment of 10,000 police recruits, saying, “We have suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel. Kenya badly needs additional officers, and I will not keep the nation waiting.”

Even this move, however, has come under criticism as the initial reason for the delayed enrollment of the 10,000 recruits was concerns over irregularities and corruption during the recruitment process.

“The selection process is flawed, favoring brawn to brains as thousands of unemployed graduates languish. The working conditions are terrible and the primary motivation for many recruits joining the police force is the bribery paradise they work in,” said Mwangi, the activist. “The fact that it took the police over 10 hours to contain four gunmen calls into question their standards of training as well.”

For the hundreds of surviving students at the University of Garissa, and for the families of those killed, the results of these politics are all too real. “I spent the day at the hospital and the morgue trying to find my missing friends,” said Malaam. “I went to the mortuary and I became so scared. Especially when I saw someone I knew. You feel so bad when you see a friend of yours who has been killed.”

TIME Kenya

Al-Shabaab Says Kenyan Cities Will Run ‘Red With Blood’

Attack on Kenya's Garissa University College
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Security forces guard after Al-Shabaab terrorists shot the students' way into Garissa University College, at least 147 students were killed and 79 injured, in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 2.

"No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety"

The Somali terror group behind Thursday’s deadly assault on a Kenyan college campus threatened a “long, gruesome war” against the country, according to a media report on Saturday.

Reuters reports that it received an emailed statement from al-Shabaab that said Kenya’s cities would run “red with blood.”

In a televised speech on Saturday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya would “do everything to defend our way of life,” and vowed not to allow al-Shabaab to create an Islamic caliphate in Kenya, according to Reuters. The President also declared three days of national mourning.

Early Thursday morning, assailants armed with guns and grenades attacked the Garissa University College Campus, targeting Christian students and killing at least 148 people, mostly students, with the death toll expected to rise. Kenyan officials said they found one survivor on the campus on Saturday.

The Somali-based al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, and in the statement to Reuters said it was in retribution for Kenya’s participation in the African Union-led fight against the group in Somalia and for mistreatment of Muslims in Kenya. The group was also responsible for the siege of an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that left 67 people dead.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities,” the group said, according to Reuters. “This will be a long, gruesome war of which you, the Kenyan public, are its first casualties.”


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