The ‘WHY’ with no answers: Reaction to the Garissa attacks in Kenya

By Nastasia Thebaud-Bouillon, France/Kenya:

Student – LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa

When a tragedy happens, you have three options:

  • You can shut your eyes and pretend you have not seen it;
  • You can observe and pretend you are not concerned; or
  • You can look with your eyes wide open and react.

I have chosen the last option because my eyes were open when it happened and my hands cannot stop writing because of the horror I have seen. I have to admit that right after the events, I also kept quiet. Why my silence? The answer is that I was wordless yet ‘question-full’: How do you make sense of the slaughter of the young spirits and potential of a nation? How to understand the cowardliness of people who have so little respect for human life; How to imagine that someone can call the brother of a victim and make him listen to the gunshots that killed his sister; How to envisage that people can pile up fellow human beings and kill them like animals; How not to cry on hear of and seeing such barbarity; How to find words that reflect such acts when even ‘slaughter’ and ‘barbarity’ do not reflect the reality; How to understand the use of religious justifications for acts that have nothing to do with religion and faith; How not to be offended when hearing politicians on TV saying the operation was a success at the time when more than 152 people had been slaughtered by only 4 terrorists and still many families do not know if their loved ones are dead or alive; How can we have been so blind to what was happening?

So many questions that kept my mouth empty of words and my mind full of the absence of answers. By losing our students, we have lost the potential of a nation. By losing our young souls, we have lost the ideals that made us stand firm as a nation. By losing our people, we have lost the means to bring change and development. So I wonder: Why have we kept silent when our mouths should have been full of words? Why have we stopped to think when our brains should have been full of thoughts? Why have we failed to act when our hands should have been full of letters and placards? Hashtags will not reduce my pain when seeing families mourning their young ones. Candles will not bring light to my questioning. Words of alleged success will not quench my thirst for answers. Because after a few days, hashtags will have disappeared from our news headlines, candles will have burnt out, and words of success will have disappeared from our headlines. But families will continue to cry, wonder, look for answers and be devastated by incomprehension. And students will still be dead, for nothing – unless we finally open our eyes and react.

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