This past week, 147 students were deprived of their God-given rights to life and liberty at Garissa University. As stated by President Kenyatta “this is a moment for everyone throughout the country to be vigilant as we continue to defeat and confront our enemies.”
Alas, senseless brutality has become too common in Kenya over the last few years. The waves attacks across the country by Al-Shabaab have been responsible for many deaths.
The 28 bus passengers killing, the mall attack in 2013 and the coast attacks in 2011 are just few examples. However, the Garisa killing is different. It is different not because innocent young students were targeted. It is different because Kenyans lawmakers could have prevented it.
The Kenyans government is as responsible as Al-Shabaab for the killing of these young students. The attack at the University of Garissa is the product of Kenyan policymakers incapability to fulfill their civic duties to protect their respective citizens.
It is self-evident that any policymaker conscious of his responsibility would have known that the university was a soft target. The school is located in a town about 100 miles from the border of lawless Somalia.
In addition, “North-east Kenya is one of the most impoverished parts of the country, where residents blame the state for years of marginalization that has made the region an easy target for Al-Shabaab operations and recruitment.”
The current situation in Kenya or Africa in general is a product of a vibrant culture of impunity at the state level, and apathy at the local level. The lack of proper check and balances prevent any type of accountability. Leaders are holding political power without responsibility; a recipe for disaster.
In addition, the current economic condition discourages many Africans of fulfilling their civic duties at the local and national level. A culture of apathy and suspicion normalize. Consequently, many are gradually accepting the normalization of a political and economic system that is depriving them of their dignity.
I am in no way making excuses or approving the atrocities committed by Al-Shabaab. The use of violence and killing of innocent of people needs to be denounced and condemned at any costs. As a born Muslim, I am well aware that Al-shabaab is simply using the Quran or Islam to promote its dumbfounded political agenda.
In addition, “people do not derive their values from scripture, they bring their values to their religion” as stated by Reza Aslan. Henceforth, the framing of extremism in the name of Islam or any other religion is wrong and unjustifiable.
Moreover, the use of violence and coercion is a political choice, not a religious one. To quote from Jurgen Habermas, “today’s Islamic fundamentalism is also a cover for political motifs. We should not overlook the political motifs we encounter in forms of religious fanaticism.”
The current focus on the group only further encourages its quest of anarchy and brutality while failing to hold policymakers responsible for their decisions. The reaction by Kenyans lawmakers will be crucial to stability of the country.
As stated by President Obama, “the future of Kenya will not be defined by violence and terror; it will be shaped by young people like those at Garissa university college by their talents, their hopes, and their achievement.”
The country’s new constitution mandates of the allocation of resources to marginalized areas can no longer be ignored, especially in the most vulnerable areas like Garissa. These young students represent the hope of Kenya and Africa.
In addition, the decentralization of power and authority from Nairobi need to occur. “The government should seek to make partners of the local population to help them fight the Al-Shabaab, who currently extort loyalty through violent retribution on anyone that opposes them” as advised by Rashi Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst.