Hundreds mark anniversary of university attack that killed 148
Kenyans yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Garissa University attack, when four extremist gunmen massacred 148 people, with renewed criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.
Hundreds gathered at the site of the attack in eastern Kenya to remember the incident, one of the country's worst-ever terrorist attacks carried out by gunmen from the al-Qaida-allied Somali al-Shabab group.
The gunmen were finally killed by a police commando unit after 12 hours. The government has been heavily criticised for its slow response to the attack, despite there being a military base nearby.
Kenya has suffered a wave of extremist attacks since it deployed troops in October 2011 to Somalia to support the weak government there in its battle against the al-Shabab militants.
The university reopened in January after extensive refurbishment of the bullet-scarred buildings, but only 150 of its 700 students have returned to class. Others were transferred to Moi University in western Kenya.
Aden Duale, the leader of the parliamentary majority, said at the event that Kenyan troops will remain in Somalia until their mission of pacifying the country is fulfilled.
Other speakers, however, reserved their ire for the government, saying that the families of the victims should receive compensation.
Paul Wekesa, 24, a second-year education student who witnessed the attack, agreed that the government should offer some kind of compensation to families of the students who died and scholarships for those survived.
He said that he survived only because he had been up early to study and so was awake when the attack began. Together with another group of students, he went to investigate the sounds of shots and ran into a gunman who opened fire on them.
One student was killed outright and the rest fled under a hail of bullets, scaling a barbed wire fence under fire.
"I am here to bury my past and heal myself," said Wekesa, who said the two weeks of counselling provided by the government has been inadequate. "I am here to show respect to my three close friends, Agnes, Edward and Cherop I managed to escape, but they didn't."