33 years after the Garissa massacre & ongoing police brutality in NFD
Incidents of police brutality and state terror are not uncommon in the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya. Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Garissa massacre, as with most massacres if not all, the exact number of victims show a discrepancy, but the most common cited number is three thousand.
Not much is said about this massacre, as if it’s brushed aside, but three thousand people (mostly Somalis) were killed in cold blood under the guise of a “security operation”. Some were shot at, others torched and women were raped. Others died of thirst, as people were rounded up in a school field and prevented from any food or drink while in the scorching sun for more than two days. This is but a glimpse of what occurred, as witnesses, survivors and other sources will tell you of other crimes that were carried out against these people.
You may ask yourself, who was behind this heinous crime? It may come as a shock if I told you that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes were Kenyan security forces. But let this not come as a surprise, because are the same forces who four years later massacred thousands of Somalis at the Wagalla massacre.
The massacre kicked off after the death of four civil servants by bandits. Not too long after the incident, security forces started pouring into the town, killing indiscriminately, burning properties and all the other atrocious deeds that come with massacres. Sure, by all means bring the criminals to justice, but don’t become a criminal yourself in the process! What was the crime of all the innocent people killed and maimed? And for what were they killed? Or was this some sort of collective punishment, were they thinking like “since those who killed the civil servants were Somalis, let’s take it out on these Somalis!”
The then minister of internal security Mr. Kariuki denied any role in the massacre. He also denied any knowledge of the “security operation” which killed these people when he appeared before the Truth & Justice Reconciliation Commission. However at one point of time when he addressed Garissa’s residents he admitted to seeing houses and properties being burnt & destroyed, he didn’t stop there but also said the forces conducted themselves with “restraint”!
My sorrow at the incident can’t change what happened and the course of history cannot be changed, but what I’m trying to get across is that incidents like this are easily forgotten and ignored as if they never happened. Until today the culprits of the massacre haven’t been brought to justice and I wonder, if they ever will.
Like I mentioned before, the reckless and undisciplined behavior of security forces in the Northern Frontier District are not mere odd occurrences, I’d label it as the “norm”. I remember reading an article by Billow Kerrow, he hit the nail on the head when he said: “For the people of North Eastern who are subjected to unending operations by the combined security forces since independence, looting is the practice, not the exception.”
In case some of the security forces forgot, you are there to secure the safety of the people, not to terrorize them.