Kenyans march for national security after massacre

2015-04-07 18:00
Medics help a person injured in the Garissa attack (File: AP)

Medics help a person injured in the Garissa attack (File: AP)

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Nairobi - Kenyans marched demanding greater national security on Tuesday following last week's massacre by Somalia's Shabaab Islamists, ahead of a candlelit vigil on the final day of mourning for the 148 people killed by the militants.

Tuesday's demonstration, with at least 200 students marching through central Nairobi waving placards, comes as security forces continue their hunt for those behind the university killings.

Students slapped vehicles with their hands as they marched through the streets, chanting "you are not safe, you are not safe!"

Maureen Mucheri, 21, an engineering student at Nairobi University, said she feared another attack, refusing to go into shopping malls and churches, because "the government is doing nothing".

Some students carried flowers, others stopped to light candles.

"We are mourning the loss of our fellow comrades, we have lost the vibrant blood that would have built tomorrow's Kenya," Mucheri added.

A larger vigil is planned for early evening on the third and final day of national mourning.

Kenyan fighter jets pounded camps belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in southern Somalia on Monday, but anger has been growing over allegations that critical intelligence warnings were missed.

Special forces units took seven hours to reach the university in Garissa last Thursday, some 365km from the capital, as Shabaab gunmen stormed dormitory buildings.

Fear of new attack

The extremists lined up non-Muslim students for execution in what President Uhuru Kenyatta described as a "barbaric medieval slaughter".

Students in the demonstration carried placards with the slogan "147 is not just a number", referring to the death toll in the massacre - although that has since risen to 148.

The massacre, Kenya's deadliest attack since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, claimed the lives of 142 students, three police officers and three soldiers.

"We shall not forget," the Standard newspaper front-page read, as news media printed the faces of those killed in the attack, even as scores of relatives continue an agonising wait for the remains of their loved ones at the main mortuary in Nairobi.

Vigil organiser Boniface Mwangi, who has urged Kenyans to come with flowers and to dress in black for the vigil in Nairobi's Uhuru Park - or "Freedom" in Swahili - has been deeply critical of the country's security failings.

"Entrenched corruption in the security system allows al-Shabaab to move freely in and out of Kenya and carry out such attacks with ease," said Mwangi, a civil society activist.

The army said Monday's airstrikes destroyed two Islamist bases, and followed a promise by Kenyatta that he would retaliate "in the severest way possible" against the Shabaab militants for their attack last Thursday.

Battle against Shabaab

Kenyan airplanes have made repeated strikes in southern Somalia since sending troops into their war-torn neighbour in 2011 to attack Shabaab bases, with Nairobi later joining the African Union force fighting the Islamists.

The Shabaab group has carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring countries, notably Kenya and Uganda, in response to their participation in the AU force.

On Saturday, Shabaab warned of a "long, gruesome war" unless Kenya withdraws its troops from Somalia.

Shabaab fighters also carried out the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi in September 2013, a four-day siege which left at least 67 people dead.

Five men have been arrested in connection with the university attack, including three alleged "co-ordinators" captured as they fled towards Somalia, and two others seized in the university compound.

A $215 000 bounty has also been offered for alleged Shebab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher said to be the mastermind behind the attack and believed to now be in Somalia.

Authorities have named one of the four gunmen killed as a fellow Kenyan - a once promising university law graduate called Abdirahim Abdullahi, an ethnic Somali - highlighting the Shabaab’s ability to recruit within the country.

Although Kenyatta has vowed to retaliate for the massacre, there have also been calls for national unity.

In an address to the nation on Saturday, Kenyatta said people's "justified anger" should not lead to "the victimisation of anyone" - a clear reference to Kenya's large Muslim and Somali minorities in a country where 80% of the population is Christian.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  al-qaeda  |  kenya  |  east africa  |  garissa attack

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