Emotions run high as families bid farewell to youths gone too soon

Tears flowed freely at the burial of Mildred Yondo Wakholi at Mulambo village in Mumias, Kakamega county. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE |

What you need to know:

  • This is my blood. I have been paying fees for Karani. We had great hope for his future, says Senator Khaniri
  • Anger and grief as government is criticised for failure to secure students
  • Vihiga Senator George Khaniri, who is Karani’s uncle, also joined mourners at the two burials.

Emotions ran high as relatives and friends of students slain in the Garissa terrorist attack gathered at gravesides around the country to pay their last respects to youths gone too soon.

There was anger and grief as those gathered at funerals expressed outrage at terrorism as some heavily criticised the government’s failure to secure the students – and prayed for peace.

The parents of Newton Karani, 21, Judith Chepkemboi, 20, Mildred Yondo Wakoli and Selpher Wanda and Ruth Esiromo, both 19, said it was unfortunate that dreams harboured by their children will not become a reality.

The four from Vihiga, Busia and Kakamega counties were part of the 148 who were shot dead by the al- Shabaab militants who raided the Garissa University College.

Mr Karani, who was a second year student pursuing a degree in business management, was raised by both parents while Ms Chepkemboi, a bachelor of education student, was raised by a single parent.

During the burial, held at Nabwani in Sabatia, Karani’s mother, Felista Kavosi, said she gave birth to a healthy child she hoped to rely on in future.
“It is painful that I had to lose him in this manner,” she said.

His father, Rex Chagwi, recalled his past with the son he referred to as a brother and termed the death a painful reality for the family.


Vihiga Senator George Khaniri, who is Karani’s uncle, also joined mourners at the two burials.

“This is my blood. I have been paying fees for Karani. We had great hope for his future,” mourned the senator. In Busia, a grandmother buried a granddaughter who she had been taking care of following the death her parents.

The granddaughter’s parents died in 2004.

Ruth Esiromo was a second year student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Business.

Family members described the 19- year-old girl as jovial, dedicated and hardworking.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Gladys Nasambu, a survivor of the attack, said Ms Esiromo was a humble and God-fearing friend.  

In Emunambo village in Kakamega County, Ms Yondo’s family described the first year education student as a favourite child who got things done.

Her mother, Everline Mukaba, said that when she got news of the attack in Garissa, she attempted to contact her daughter on her mobile phone but she was unsuccessful.

At the university, Mildred is best remembered as a poet, an actor and a student leader.

At the burial of Ms Chepkemboi in Hamisi, Vihiga County, her mother Ms Dorcas Jepkor said she had expessed security fears at the university long before it happened.

“We tried to convince the institution to transfer her to the main campus or any other university but the institution’s administration would not hear of it. Had they listened to us, we would not be mourning her death today,” she said.

In Navakholo, Selpher’s uncle Kanut Waswa said his nephew was bright and focused.

“Right from pre-unit, she was always on top of her class,” he said.

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya called on civil servants from Kakamega working in North Eastern to return home.

“We would rather have them back and employ them here other than let them stay in North Eastern where their lives are in danger,” he said.


Mr Oparanya and Governor Moses Akaranga of Vihiga led speakers in condemning the attack and asked the government to beef up security across the country.

“For how long are we going to take this? The first and foremost responsibility of any government is security,” said Mr Akaranga.

University Academic Staff Union secretary-general Musalia Edebe said all the students who survived the attack at Garissa will report to Moi University in Eldoret on May 20.

“As a union, we did not agree to the establishment of a university at Garissa. No teacher will go back to that institution,” said Mr Edebe.

In Taita Taveta County, there was sobbing and grief as family and friends of the late Bryson Mwakulegwa gathered for the church service which was presided over by Taita Taveta Anglican Bishop Samson Mwaluda.

The 21-year-old Mwakulegwa was a second year Bachelor of Education student and the second-born child of Mr and Mrs Gideon Mghalu.

Local leaders said the government has a responsibility to protect the lives of Kenyans.

Bishop Mwaluda asked Kenyans not to allow themselves to be divided along religious lines.

“Our youth should also not fear going for higher education for fear of attack. We should not be cowed by these terrorists because, if we do, then we will have allowed them to win,” he told the mourners.

In Elgeyo Marakwet County, leaders told their North Eastern counterparts to take full responsibility for the attack on the Garissa University College.
Five of the slain students were from Elgeyo Marakwet.

Speaking during the burial of two victims of the massacre in Kapsogom village, Elgeyo Marakwet County, area Governor Alex Tolgos asked non-local parents to withdraw their children from North Eastern educational institutions.

Area Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, meanwhile, blamed the runaway insecurity on the former coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga who he blamed for failing to check the radicalisation of Muslim youths.

They spoke during the burials of Mr Isaack Kirotich Bushen, a first year Business Management student, and Ms Joy Chepkorir Kibor, a second year Education student, who were laid to rest at their neighbouring villages of Kapsogom and Koibirir in Endo Ward.

Governor Tolgos said the North Eastern political leadership should take full responsibility for the university attack.

In Uasin Gishu County, Governor Mandago and the county’s assembly speaker Isaac Terer, who spoke at the burial of 22-year-old Sheila Cherop at Chereber village in Burnt Forest, said House Majority Leader Aden Duale should resign.

“Area leaders, led by Duale, want to produce the list of sympathisers and financiers of terror; why hadn’t they produced the list before the attack? He should resign,” said Mr Terer, whose cousin also died in the attack.

“If they are patriotic and sincere, they should forward the names,” Mr Mandago said.

Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno also questioned the timing of the North Eastern leaders’ pledge to fight terrorism.

“If they had the list before the attack, then they must be part of it (the attack). We are not ready for any more funerals,” said Mr Chemno.

At the burial of 24-year-old Sammy  Karani in Kaloleni, Mombasa, deputy county commissioner Fredrick Ndunga told mourners that four Mombasa Republican Council members had left to join al-Shabaab.

“As a community, you should start sharing information to arrest the criminals amongst us,” he said.

On Friday, two of the victims of the Garissa massacre were buried in Gatundu, Kiambu County.

Relatives and friends of the two Second Year students, Angela Nyokabi Githakwa (Jojo) and Lucy Nyambura Kuria, were overcome with grief and broke down.

Angela was buried at her Wanugu village home in Gatundu South while Lucy was laid to rest at her parents’ home in Gachege in Gatundu North. Both girls were aged 21.

Reports by Derick Luvega, Benson Amadala, John Shilitsa, Ruth Nderitu, Oliver Musembi, Arthur Situma, Bozo Jenje, Lucy Mkanyika and Philemon Suter.