A week ago, 148 people, including many students, were massacred on the campus on Garissa University College in the East African nation of Kenya by members of the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because al- Shabab carried out a similar terrorist attack in September 2013 in a mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Yet, it took police commandoes seven hours to arrive at the Garissa University campus, this after the members of the Kenyan military, which has a barracks in the town, responded quickly but were unable to quell the murderous assault. After soldiers suffered casualties, a decision was made to send in the police department’s paramilitary tactical unit, known as Recce Squad.How many innocent lives must be sacrified before the Kenyan government realizes that the country’s very existence is at stake? The ability of al-Shabab fighters to launch the attacks from their militant camps in neighboring Somalia should have had Kenya on high alert since the killing spree in the Westgate Mall.
As details of the government’s response become public, it’s clear that the decision- makers have not learned anything from previous terrorism-related violence. Lax security, a lack of a coordinated response and a power struggle between the security forces resulted in the al-Shabab militants having free run of the campus for hours.
Students and others told of the horrors of seeing relatives, friends and classmates being gunned down by the Islamic killers who targeted Christians. Individuals who identified themselves as Muslims and were able to quote from the Quran were spared.
The anger now building up on the streets of Nairobi is understandable.
“Where were you?” students participating in a demonstration shouted as they passed a truck carrying security forces with red berets and rifles. The troops did not respond.
That’s good, because had they tried to silence the demonstrators or otherwise retaliated, all hell would have broken loose.
The people of Kenya, still nursing the wounds suffered by the nation a year and seven months ago, must once again bury their dead.
More to come
And, al-Shabab has promised further acts of terrorism so long as Kenyan soldiers are on Somali soil. They have been deployed as part of the African Union forces sent to help the government in Mogadishu in its war against Islamic militant groups.
Kenya has vowed severe retaliation against al-Shabab and this week began carrying out airstrikes on militant camps in Somalia. But this is a short-term solution.
In the wake of the 2013 attack on the mall we called on all the countries whose citizens had been killed to launch a coordinated campaign against al-Shabab. We warned that failure to eliminate the extremists would embolden them to continue their campaign of terror in East Africa and in other parts of the continent.
There’s a reason the international community should become actively involved in what’s going on: al-Shabab is affiliated with al-Qaida, which has been expanding its operations in Africa and continues to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida affiliates in Pakistan have targeted the democratically elected government in Islamabad, with the goal of turning the country into an Islamic republic governed by Sharia law.