If Westgate was a disaster, what do you call Garissa?
In America, if you lose your house in a storm, chances are that the President of the United States will come round to comfort you and promise you federal help in rebuilding your home.
In Kenya, your child, your only hope in whom you have invested the family fortune, is slaughtered; but a little time can’t be found in busy diaries for the leader you elected to come and look you in your teary eyes and assure you that he did his best, that the death of your son or daughter has not been in vain, that he feels your pain and is doing his best to bring to justice those who did it.
Even the leader of the Opposition is so busy saving the country, that he couldn’t spare an afternoon to share your pain and to assure you of the support of your countrymen.
Kenya, led by the Jubilee government, let down the students of Garissa University College in life and in death. The country is vulnerable, not just because it has enemies, but because its systems of security are corrupt and incompetent.
There were intelligence reports that a university was to be attacked, and that Garissa and Mandera were at risk. Why weren’t adequate measures taken to protect the university?
It is bad enough that it took 11 hours for specialist officers trained in dealing with terrorists to swing into action. By then it was too late because everybody knows that Al-Shabaab does not take hostages; the terrorists strike to kill and die.
The speed with which they are confronted is, therefore, of essence. Any delay, leaving young people at the mercy of the killers for all those hours, takes bungling to a new level.
A Cabinet secretary going on international TV to argue that the response time was adequate is new low even by our standards.
On Monday, the Daily Nation wrote the story of Mr Peter Kithome who, in the search for his daughter, Monica Ngwasi Mutinda, was required to look into the mouths of all female bodies in an overwhelmed mortuary from where the stench enveloped nearly the entire neighbourhood.
Why did grieving relatives have to be put through additional trauma? Why couldn’t individuals first be identified through fingerprints and DNA instead of asking parents to search for their loved ones in a pile of bodies?
CHILDREN OF KENYA
Why crowd all the bodies into Chiromo Mortuary when there is great capacity in other facilities for decent preservation?
These are the children of Kenya, the hope of its future. They are the martyrs of a nation under attack.
The way we treat their remains must symbolise our resolve to protect ourselves and prevail over enemies. For their deaths to mean something, the entire ceremony of State must be extended in their honour to elevate their sacrifice and energise a brutalised nation.
It is wrong for leaders to exploit tragedy for political ends. Terrorism is not a campaign issue. It is an existential threat to the nation.
It saddens Kenyans to see that their leaders are not circling the wagons and fighting this evil as one. Others, who have in the past supported the hate-mongers refuse to see the error of their ways.
But in this tragedy there are opportunities: to check and weed out the hate-preaching extremists who are radicalising the youth, to design one standard and generally accepted curriculum for madrassa so that religious instruction is not used as cover for radicalisation.
There is also a chance to smoke out the vile supporters, sympathisers, and financiers of terrorists in our midst.
These children are lost to us, brutally slaughtered by fanatics. But even in death they still have the power to unite us, to get us to see beyond our differences and to fight together for our preservation as one people.
Where is the leadership?