They mattered, and so did their dreams and aspirations #147notjustanumber


you will be remembered

As a blogger it is my job to tell you in time what is going on around Kenya and my opinion on some of the issues. But sometimes you have no words, everything is just open wounds and tears. I am a student currently trying to complete my thesis but I was a boarder when I was doing my undergraduate degree. And in a place that was sort of isolated like what I imagine Garissa University to be. I have been walking around the last week thinking about how the students were excited about the long weekend and what it meant for them.

If Easter was coming up guys would be getting ready to go home. Home to eat home made food and save the little coins one still has. Because it would be a weekend, it would be perfect time to catch up with friends and relatives. This would be a great time to go out because no worrying about class in the morning. This would be a great time to spend time with girlfriends or boyfriends. A time to take off, go to Naivasha for the weekend or just stay home and enjoy visiting with the family.

Campus is a place where you feel safe. Where the only things that worry you is paying for your courses, exams, how to stretch one’s pocket money and whether you are cool or not. At this time students would go enjoy the holiday knowing once they come back they are back to doing exams. And that would drain the energy out of anybody.

In campus we had dreams of making it. About our first jobs and the kind of lifestyle we would have. The upgrades we would have in lifestyle. The best thing was having our freedom and not depending on our parents.

The last thing a student would want to have to think about is that they are not secure. It seems the Garissa students had complained about insecurity  and their complaints were ignored. And students lost their lives because of a Government and University that did not take their concerns seriously. The school was next to a barracks but ironically that did not save them. Students woke up to gunshots and before they could even react some of them were dead.

After Westgate we thought things would get better in terms of security. They haven’t. Getting rid of Ole Lenku did nothing to change the state of security. What is the point of having an intelligence unit if they don’t know what’s going in in the country? It seems alshabab had been recruiting in the area. One of the terrorists had just left university. He was the son of a chief. It is said that the guy’s friends had also joined the Alshabab and they had left the country to join terror units outside the country. Was this information not known? The security apparatus of this country was sleeping on the job. Saying sorry does not bring back those bright young minds who had hopes and dreams, many of whom were the only hopes and dreams of their families.

The families of the dead have been given a condolence letter from the president, a coffin, portrait photo Frame, transport for not more than 7 members of the family and 100,000. That is just enough money for the funerals of the students. What about after?

There are still students who are in hospital with fractures, gunshot wounds and traumatic memories of being shot. What is the government doing for them? When Westgate happened the government was quick to ask private and public hospitals to take the wounded and say they would pay their bills! Why isn’t the government saying the same now? It’s like some people are first class citizens of this countr Those children, I call them children because many of them were under 21 were the hope of this nation. Their parents and guardians worked hard to get through school and into university so that they would be productive members of society and they would also lift their families’ economic situation when they finished school, got those degrees, and got jobs.

There are also reports that some students are unaccounted for. We need to know what the real story is.

By the way leaders of North Eastern the blood of those students is on you. It was not news to you that there were alshabab cells in your area. You knew that there were financiers of the terror group and you said nothing to the police. You protected the terrorists with your silence and thus you allowed innocent blood to be shed. The government may not follow up on why you did not say anything but you are guilty. You are silent collaborators. Why are you giving out the names of the organizations working with Alshabab now? You knew who they were and said nothing. You are not innocent.

I don’t know the way forward but I am scared. Scared for my security and that of my loved ones. Because even as we bury those innocent students we don’t know what’s to come. As I go to university I don’t know if I carry a target on my back. But it’s not just in school but at the supermarkets and malls too. And on the buses too. And in the markets.

Yesterday, as if to underline how out of touch our government is, the digital division came up with a hashtag #2yearsofsuccess . People were so mad and Itumbi said that our tweets are just sideshows. How can we celebrate (mourn) about 2 years of success when the only thing the government has succeeded in doing is letting us know that we are responsible for our own security?

Nevermind the taxes we pay so that our cops can protect the VIPs while we pay their salaries. Or that helicopters can be found for private functions but not to rescue students from terrorists. The Reece squad reached around 11 hours later. And they managed to sort out the issue in an hour. Imagine how many students would have been saved if they got there in the morning before the terrorists went from room to room shooting students.

We will not forget Mandera, or the attacks in Mpeketoni, or the attacks in North Eastern just as we will not forget Westgate. The terrorists are getting bolder and the government is still giving us the same tired excuses. The government needs to rise up and be a government we look up to, because we have lost hope. We don’t need propaganda telling us about 2 years of successes we need to know that we will be safe. Because if the economy is growing but there is nobody enjoying it because we are scared to get out of our homes, offices and we are scared to go to school or take kids to school then it is all for nothing.

Those 147 plus counting should not be forgotten. Their dreams and aspirations matter. Their lives matter, the impact they left matters. The way they laughed, danced, ate, loved, read, wrote, sang, and played mattered. They are not just numbers: they are names, memories, loved ones. Let us not forget them, let us celebrate their lives, mourn their deaths, and most importantly, demand that this should never happen again. Our lives matter.

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Potentash Founder. A creative writer and editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]