What causes me the greatest sadness and heartache is the loss of innocent life. It happens too often and it happens all over the world. Whether it’s victims of drone bombings, suicide bombers, terrorists, deranged lunatics, overly-zealous cops, or even accidents, every time I hear about such an occurrence, I feel a sorrow that cuts deep. When I think of the victims and their families, I am overcome with sympathy.
When gunmen raided Garissa University College in the early morning hours of Thursday, April 2nd, it was one of the more appalling recent examples of such loss of life on a large scale. At least 147 innocent people (the majority being young students) were shot and killed in the attack.
This event in particular hit me even harder than most. Two of the most amazing women I know are from Kenya. One of them is currently living there, and the other likely will soon be. Given my relationship with the latter, it is increasingly likely that I could end up living there one day soon as well. While every time I hear of innocent people being killed, this particular event struck particularly close to home for me. I can only imagine what the survivors of that attack are feeling – not to mention the families and loved ones of the victims.
Shortly after these attacks, I was discussing it with my girlfriend (the woman I mentioned above). It was a brief discussion but it was remarkable how quickly we got to the heart of the matter. First, of course, we grieved. We both expressed our sadness and tried to wrap our minds around the insanity and unfairness of what had taken place. We moved onto who the murderers were, and why they had done what they did. Finally, we discussed ways to diminish the potential for something like this to happen again.
The organization known as Al-Shabaab quickly took credit for the attack. That group of idiots and psychopaths is predominantly located in Somalia, so I was curious as to what would drive them to come into Kenya. She told me that the Kenyan government routinely sends its military into Somalia for the purpose of carrying out attacks against Al-Shabaab.
From what I know about how US foreign and military aid works, I commented that the Kenyan government is probably on the receiving end of large amounts of US aid – mostly military in nature. It turns out I was right, as she went on to send me these links (see here and here). Sure enough, the US sends upwards of $1 billion annually to the Kenyan government. Kenya is annually in the top 5-10 of recipients of US money. Just today, John Kerry announced sending $45 million in additional aid to Kenya. Furthermore, 4,000 Kenyan soldiers have been incorporated into AMISOM, a “peacekeeping” (read: military) organization that is largely funded, supported, trained, and directed by the US State Department.
When that kind of money is on the table, there’s no doubt that it comes with certain strings attached. Would the Kenyan government still be receiving billions of dollars from the US if they refused to provide their soldiers to AMISOM? Once those soldiers are committed to AMISOM, does the Kenyan government have any say in how they are used? Is the Kenyan government corrupt (all governments are corrupt) to the point that the “leaders” of Kenya don’t even care about their own troops’ mission, so long as they remain on the receiving end of so many US dollars? These are questions that must be asked. Unfortunately, the US government reports that I linked to above are sufficiently vague as to keep the necessary ‘plausible deniability’ that senior government officials love so much.
AMISOM’s prime focus (and indeed, it’s namesake) is on Somalia. Right or wrong, the fact is that Al-Shabaab retaliates against perceived Kenyan military aggression by conducting attacks like the one that just happened to all those innocent young people (mostly Christian women). The 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi was another example and was equally as horrifying. These attacks will continue to happen as long as Kenya continues to play lapdog for the US.
Here’s what her and I came up with. Kenya needs to reclaim it’s sovereignty. Reclaim their soldiers from AMISOM. Refuse to go along with US-directed “peacekeeping” missions which only seem to incite anger and retaliations, but never seem to bring about any actual peace. Forgo the aid received from the US. The people of Kenya don’t benefit from it anyway, and as we’ve seen it probably hurts them if anything. It certainly hurt those 147 innocent people. Use those troops to secure the border between Kenya and Somalia to prevent a rogue attack from Al-Shabaab or whoever else.
The rallying cry of “#147notjustanumber” is exactly right. The people affected by these murders are countless in number. Let both Kenya and the US change their ways before any more innocent lives are lost in the name of revenge and retaliation.
To the victims of Garissa, requiescat in pace.