Platform to tackle extremism unveiled as Garissa University remembers attack victims

Garissa Uni students

Garissa University students follow the proceedings of the ninth anniversary of the terror attack at the facility that left 148 people dead. 

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo| Nation Media Group 

Nine years ago this month, gunmen attacked Garissa University, killing 148 people, most of them students. It was one of the most horrific attacks ever to occur on Kenyan soil.

Somalia-based militant Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, which continues to carry out attacks inside Kenya, claimed responsibility, saying it was retaliating against Kenya’s military incursions in Somalia.

On April 2, 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University killing 148 people and injuring 80 others.

The gunmen took over 700 students hostage. By the end of the siege, all four of the attackers were killed but with a horrific aftermath.

Five men were later arrested in connection with the attack, and a bounty was placed for the arrest of a suspected organizer.

Of the 148 dead, 142 were students, three were soldiers and three were police officers. Around 587 students escaped, but 80 were injured.

To tackle the changing trend of radicalization by violent extremists, security agencies in the country have launched an online portal.

Violent extremists have adopted emerging technologies to recruit vulnerable Kenyans, especially young people, and ultimately mobilize them to violence.

During the ninth anniversary of the Garissa University attack, the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) unveiled an online portal to tackle violent extremism

The online information portal aims at creating and increasing public awareness of the threat of violent extremism conducive to terrorism.

“In a major boost to Kenya's counterterrorism war, the portal, known as Jasiri Observatory, will be used to sensitize, inform and empower individuals and communities to understand and respond to violent ideologies peddled by extremist groups,” said Dr Rosalind Nyawira, Director NCTC.

She said the portal will strengthen ongoing efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism (PCVE), a process that involves directly addressing the underlying drivers of terrorism using non-coercive strategies including counter-messaging, public outreach and de-radicalization programmes.

"Violent extremism is a threat to national security. This portal empowers individuals and communities to identify and discredit violent extremist ideologies, facilitating public dialogue on the threat of violent extremism. We want Kenyans to speak out against violent extremism through this portal,” she said. portal will provide more information on violent extremism and ways to avoid falling prey to radical ideologies according to NCTC.

Dr Nyawira added that Jasiri Observatory will serve as a platform for continuous public dialogue and feedback on PCVE and drive public conversations on fighting extremism. The portal will also enhance efficiency and coordination in implementation of PCVE initiatives by building a strong and integrated network of stakeholders.

Jasiri is designed as a public repository that anyone can access to learn more about various manifestations of violent extremism."

"We chose to launch Jasiri during the anniversary of the 2015 Garissa attack, as this is an opportune moment to reflect on the strides made towards making our country safer from terrorism and violent extremism," remarked Dr. Nyawira.

Garissa University Vice Chancellor Prof Ahmed Warfa described the April 2 attack as the most unfortunate to the learning institution.

“I remember when the attack happened I was in this compound. Most of the students who were affected were from humble backgrounds and some families did not even have a place to bury their children,” he said.

Prof added, “We have had atleast six graduations since 2015 and this is all about our resilience. We resolved to say never again and we have always stood together as family.”

Nine years down the line, the facility now has enhanced security with a police post set up right inside.

At the main gate, every vehicle that comes in is thoroughly checked by police officers providing security around the clock.

Students without identification cards are not allowed in while details for visitors have to be recorded.