Garissa college, site of 2015 terror massacre, reopens

Garissa University College in northeast Kenya has reopened, nine months after 147 students were killed in a brutal assault by Somalia-based al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab Islamist militants.

Staff reported to work on Monday 4 January while students are expected to arrive by 11 January. According to the college Principal Dr Ahmed Oman Warfa, the majority of lecturers are back on duty.

Most surviving Garissa students were relocated to Moi University – a public, multi-campus university headquartered in Eldoret – of which Garissa is a constituent college. They are not expected back.

“Sixty students who could not be redeployed to other campuses will begin classes on 11 January while new students will join the college in the September intake,” said Warfa.

Sombre opening

Unlike the excited hustle and bustle at other colleges that reopened last week after the festive season, Garissa held a sombre, low-key ceremony in which survivors of the massacre remembered the early morning attack of 2 April 2015, when gunmen stormed the campus.

The college was the scene of a 12-hour siege by al-Shabaab attackers led by Abdirahim Abdullahi, a graduate of the University of Nairobi.

“It pains me that we lost such a huge number of students, and I wish there was something we could have done differently,” said Warfa.

A United Nations report on the massacre, released late last year, showed that the principal had repeatedly requested greater security on and around campus in the face of an ongoing terror attack threat – but had been ignored by the authorities at all levels.

Greater security

Amid efforts to beef up security at the university college, the government has established a police post on campus. Heavily armed police have replaced private guards.

The government is also erecting a US$2.3 million permanent perimeter fence that will be equipped with closed-circuit television cameras to detect security threats.

Commenting on the reopening of the Garissa University College recently, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto said that no matter what it took, the institution would be reopened as it was the only degree-awarding centre in northeastern Kenya.

“We will not allow evil to prevail and will shame those who attacked and killed innocent students,” said Ruto.