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Africa

Reopening of Kenya’s Garissa University 'a show of confidence on security issues’

The university has reopened nine months after 148 people were killed by al-Shabab militants. While some Kenyans see the reopening as a triumph against terror, for others it’s too soon, says analyst Brian Wanyama.

Most of those who died in the deadly raid in April 2015 were students at Garissa University College in eastern Kenya. Somali extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retribution for the Kenyan military presence in Somalia. DW spoke to Brian Singoro Wanyama, a political analyst in Kenya, about the significance of the university's reopening.

DW: How safe are students and staff at the university now?

Brian Wanyama: A number of measures have been put in place to protect the safety of university students and staff. A police station has been established on the campus itself and there is increased frisking of anyone entering and leaving the campus.

The students who survived the massacre will not be going back to Garissa University but the staff are returning to work. So there is also a need to put in measures for the staff who were traumatized during the massacre.

Since the Garissa massacre, there have been serious security challenges in northern Kenya, so we need a collaborated effort from all the stakeholders, namely the community, the security apparatus, the government and the intelligence systems both inside and outside of Kenya. One challenge in particular is emerging: radicalization. In combination with unemployment that will pose a big challenge in the area.

A man shouts as he takes part in a street protest

Students took to the streets after the attack to mourn those who were killed

There was criticism at the time that the Kenyan security authorities didn't react fast enough when the raid first started. Have security procedures now been tightened up?

I believe there is now enhanced intelligence gathering and sharing which should greatly reduce the response time should another attack occur. The slow response to the Garissa attack was apparently because there were no helicopters available to send elite forces based in Nairobi to the site. The government has put a mechanism in place for a helicopter to be on standby so that these elite forces can reach other parts of the country quickly.

Was the Kenyan government directly involved in the decision to reopen this university?

I do believe the government was involved, particularly because the announcement that Garissa would be reopening was made by the deputy president, William Ruto. For the government, the reopening of Garissa University is a show of confidence on security issues. It allows the government to send out a message to al-Shabab. Closing the university completely would have been an acknowledgement of being defeated by a terror group. There is also an element of political boost for the communities in the northern frontier. Garissa University is the only university in the area, so by reopening it, the government is reaffirming its readiness to work with communities in the region.

How have Kenyans been reacting to the news?

Reactions are quite mixed. Some people feel the reopening has come too soon, before people have overcome the trauma they went through. But others feel that reopening the university is saying that in spite of the terror attacks, and the killing of Kenyans, life still has to go on.

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