Garissa residents blame government, locals for college attack

Garissa residents urge locals with knowledge of the whereabouts of militants behind the Garissa University College to step forward.

GARISSA, KENYA (APRIL 6, 2015) (REUTERS) – With the death toll in an assault by Somali militants on a Kenyan university likely to climb above 147, anger among residents in Garissa is growing over what they say was a government failure to prevent the bloodshed.

Strapped with explosives, masked al Shabaab gunmen stormed the Garissa University College campus, some 200 km (120 miles) from the Somali border, in a pre-dawn rampage last week.

Tossing grenades and spraying bullets at cowering students, the attackers initially killed indiscriminately. But they later freed some Muslims and instead targeted Christian students during a siege that lasted about 15 hours.

Anger over the massacre was compounded by the fact there were warnings last week that an attack on a university was imminent. Local residents accused the authorities of doing little to boost security in this little-developed region.

Some also blamed locals for harbouring the militants.

“In terms of security here, the population is also to blame as they are not saying where the enemies are, especially the local population, should be able to help with information as to where they are,” local resident Joshua Chege said.

Officials said almost 150 people died, with at least 79 wounded, many critically. But with an uncertain number of students and staff still missing, the casualties may yet mount.

For Jamal Adow, security is all that matters to locals and not only in Garissa, but the entire country.

“We don’t want any problems, we want Garissa to be safe and also Kenya should be safe,” he said.

On the streets of Garissa, military vehicles patrolled the area on Monday (April 6) but Hussein Adam Ali said the vehicles driving through town are not enough.

“Security is bad, and we blame the government as they seem not to be working,” Ali said.

More than 400 people have been killed by al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab in the east African nation since President Uhuru Kenyatta took office in April 2013, including some 67 people who died in a blitz on a shopping mall in the capital Nairobi in September of the same year.

Al Qaeda itself killed some 207 people when it blew up the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998, an attack which remains the single biggest loss of life in Kenya since its independence from Britain in 1963.