#147NotJustANumber: How we protested Uhuru regime’s neglect of helpless students
SETH ODONGO·SATURDAY, APRIL 2, 2016
Today, in this first commemoration of Garissa University attack, Kenyans are remembering the Garissa University massacre by the hashtag ‘147 is not just a Number’.What many have forgotten is that this hashtag #147NotJustANumber was itself a protest against the Kenyan government’s bungling of Garissa terror attack.
Those of us who started it were maligned and called names. Our patriotism to Kenya was questioned and some went as far as claim we were ‘celebrating’. At a time when political correctness was needed, we refused to join the herd mentality and follow the usual ritualistic ‘prayers’.
Soon after the news of attack, instead of dispatching Recce Squad and serious military artillery which would have degraded the few attackers (official record of the terrorists who carried the mass killings have remained less than 5) thus saved hundreds of students, the government sent its big vegetables. They used two choppers. They flew in Garissa town in less than two hours, parked their choppers strategically and watched the horror movie from the comfort and safety of a military airstrip.
Meanwhile, the Recce Squad which would later destroy the terrorists in record time used the road, arriving in Garissa some six to 10 hours later. One of the police choppers had on the material day gone to Mombasa to pick the daughter of one of the police bosses. It was that bad.
As panicking students called home to their parents and some confided in their boyfriends the magnitude of the danger they were facing, Kenya government took its sweet time, acting with less urgency and reckless abandon. They waited as Al shabaab moved from one classroom to the next, from hostel to hostel, and as their minutes turned into hours and hours into terror, no help came their way.
When the reality of what had happened in Garissa started settling, with the first news that more than 100 students had been killed, the government furiously disputed the figure as gross exaggeration. At the same time, the government propaganda machine on Twitter started several hashtags: ‘I stand with Kenya’, ‘Pray for Kenya’, ‘One Nation’ and such patriotism oozing empty phrases.
We were disgusted. We refused to join. We started asking questions and demanding answers. Even more, we started exposing the recklessness with which Uhuru regime factotums handled the matter.
147 is not just a number was not just a hashtag to remember the fallen students. We were telling an insensitive government that the number 147 stood for sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces, mothers and fathers. It stood for the hopes of villages and communities who sold chicken and goats and millet and land to send those school children to gain education. 147 was not just a number.
Mainstream Kenya, the politicians and the media, refused to join. The church refused to join too. Government bloggers fed Kenyans hope, as they still do. Government officials stuck to officialdom, many congratulating the ‘government’ for saving more students than those who were killed. “We did all we could do…the response was adequate”, Amb. Amina Mohammed told CNN’s Christine Amanpour. Activipreneurs only joined when it was apparent no other ‘hashtag’ would beat our determination to point out the incompetence of a regime that watched hundreds of helpless students perish under the unforgiving hands of mindless terrorists.
No one took responsibility. How could anyone be held accountable when the government maintained the response (rescue mission) was ‘adequate’? Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery and IG Joseph Boinnet who bungled the rescue mission continue to serve, most of the time oozing unconstitutional directives like in the Joho gun drama. The intelligence system remains high on political mischief, bungling Okoa Kenya referendum whose third provision would have seen security more localised to end the bureaucratic incompetence which led to those deaths at Garissa.
Today, a year later, as a ‘memorial service’ in ‘honour’ of the victims of this tragedy goes down in Garissa, presided over by Aden Duale (the man who promised to produce the list of terrorists he said he knew by name) I refuse to join. I refuse to join what is essentially a ‘hype’. If you could not bring yourself to tweeting or posting ‘147 is not just a number’ then, what has changed today that makes you so remorseful? Perhaps, something has surely changed.
Holding a memorial for the glorious dead should not excite you as cooking chapati for street kids. Memorials are not acts of kindness to the dead. If the mental template among regime top vegetables which bungled Garissa rescue mission is still in use – and yes it is – I refuse to dance on top of the graves of those unfortunate students. No thank you!
To the patriots who refused to bow down then and asked the hard questions, today, let’s not delude ourselves that the struggle to hold our government accountable is over. Keep fighting, comrades.