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Aden Duale: Garissa attack was a scene from hell

By Biketi Kikechi | April 2nd 2016
Kisii University students sign a white piece of cloth at their institution on April 01,2016 in commemoration of the first anniversary of the 147 students killed by terrorists at Garissa University. The showed solidarity and prayed for peace in the other learning institutions. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)

Horrific scenes after the guns fell silent at the Garissa University College still give National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale nightmares one year later.

It was a scene from hell which will haunt me for the rest of my life, says Duale.

“The nightmares haunt me especially when I see TV images of terror attacks in places like Brussels, Paris, Lahore and the Middle East,” he says.

Today, Duale and other leaders will join Garissa town community in a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the attack that left 148 people dead.

As Kenya marks one year after the attack, the Garissa Town MP says he remembers the events of that dark day as if they happened yesterday.

Peace at last

He particularly remembers a female student related to Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who called to inform him that the college was under attack and she needed help.

“I was on my way to Garissa and she kept calling me from morning until about 1pm. I think that is when she lost her life. It was so sad that we did not manage to save the lives of those students,” says Duale.

But he is happy that today, a partnership between the people of North Eastern, leaders, their compatriots across the border in Somalia and a combined team of security forces have secured the region.

Following the attack on the university, the government has deployed more than 2,000 soldiers along the Kenya-Somalia border. The police have also been supplied with armoured multi-purpose vehicles to boost their surveillance.

Religious leaders were also engaged through the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) to regulate madrasas and stop radicalisation.

Duale says MPs, Senators and Cabinet Secretaries from the region spend one week meeting their local and religious counterparts to discuss how they would help the government tackle terrorism following the attack.

“It was out of those meetings that we agreed on almost all measures that have been implemented to successfully stop cross-border and internal terror attacks in the region,” he says.

Part of the recommendations they made to President Uhuru Kenyatta included recalling Ambassador Mohamud Ali Saleh from retirement and appointing him the regional co-ordinator.

The leaders told the President that Saleh had done a remarkable job when he served as the North eastern Province Provincial Commissioner (PC) in the early 1990s and the locals had faith in him.

But speaking to The Standard on Saturday, Saleh downplayed his impact and instead attributed recent security achievements to the cordial relationship among security officers and residents.

Security officers, he says, have adopted intelligence-led policing, with the public fully involved in collecting and collating information on the movement of Al Shabaab operatives.

“We came up with an open door policy and allowed the public to access security officers round the clock by sharing crucial information through social media to counter the Al Shabaab threat. We overcame the suspicion of mistrust between the officers and the locals,” he told The Standard on Saturday.

Duale says he also requested the President that police commanders in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties be picked from the local ethnic communities.

The MPs have also requested that more money be made available to Amb Saleh’s office so that he can cover more ground.

“As a result of our efforts, you can see that both the region and Eastleigh in Nairobi are now safe as the public is no longer afraid of sharing information,” says Duale.

Normalcy is slowly returning to towns in North Eastern as business people and teachers who had fled following repeated terror attacks return.

“We suffered a lot because NGOs left and our education sector is still affected, but we are getting back. We expect the President to give Garissa University College a charter next year,” says Duale.

Terror list

The MP expects that the new intake in September will help the university restore normal operations.

Government sponsored students who survived the massacre were transferred to Moi University’s main campus in Eldoret where they will complete their studies from.

But did he really have a list of suspected terrorists who planned and executed the Garissa University College attack on April 2nd last year?

No, says the Garissa Town MP. He says he was misquoted when he told Kenyans after the attack that a combined effort of leaders, residents and religious leaders from the North Eastern region would identify and expose those engaged in terrorism and radicalisation.

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