NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 8 – The government has commenced the process of releasing the bodies of those who perished in the Garissa University College terror attack which left 148 people dead, among them 142 students.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang who was at the Chiromo mortuary to ensure all preparations to release the bodies were on course intimated that they were anticipating to release at least 20 bodies to the families for them to begin the journey of laying their kin to rest.
“We have given ourselves a target of about 20 bodies today and then the process will continue tomorrow (Thursday) for any family who will be prepared because it also depends on which day they want to bury their loved ones — we shall process them in accordance with the day they have requested us,” said Kipsang.
But by close of business only three families had indicated readiness to bury their loved ones, with only one family having picked the body of their daughter Angela Nyokabi Githakwa aka Jojo who will be laid to rest on Friday as per an obituary posted in one of the local dailies.
Kenya Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet urged families to register their details and those of their kin to ensure the clearance process was hastened and also to curb instances where individuals could receive money fraudulently.
“The whole process has been paid for by the government and by the Red Cross through the support of the Kenyan corporates; the purchases of the coffins, clothing for the bodies, portraits, transport and logistics costs to respective destinations. The government and the University will also give Sh100, 000 to the families that have been affected,” said Gullet.
He also said a follow-up would be conducted on the families and the students who survived the attack to ensure they recover from the ordeal.
“We hope that with the burials done, the trauma and anxiety will start to be reduced so that the long-term healing, the counseling can continue from there, not only in Nairobi but in the respective towns where they reside — this is the process we will go into in phase two,” added Gullet.
Throughout the day, a somber mood engulfed the Chiromo mortuary as families came to terms with the loss of their loved ones. Among them was a mother who had yet to identify the body of her daughter. She came out screaming just after viewing the body screaming, “they shot Leah on the head, they shot her on the head,” as counselors whisked her away for the loss to sink in before she could be counseled.
Already coffins provided by the Kenya Red Cross had been brought to the mortuary in readiness to transport the bodies but according to the Education PS, although most of the bodies were ready for collection, traditional burial rites were hindering the collection of the bodies as the some of the families stood by the cultural rites with regard to funerals.
“Some of the families say according to their culture they cannot transport a body at night while some say they cannot bury on Friday, so we are not giving them a deadline of when they can pick the bodies, we have asked them to register and tell us when they can collect the body,” said Kipsang’.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta visited the morgue to condole with the families and she briefly visited the rooms where the bodies were being prepared in readiness for collection by their families and on coming out, she was visibly shaken.
Just before her visit, Cardinal John Njue held prayers with the families as choirs from different churches including the All Saints Cathedral say solemn songs.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the past things have passed away,” he quoted from the Bible (Revelations 21).
Njue urged the families to accept the situation and pray for strength further calling on the government to beef up security in all the educational institutions across the country.
“Institutions should ensure they prepare themselves and the students to respond to emergencies — the government should also oversee the implementation of a framework to enhance security,” he said.
He urged university councils to vet all their employees to ensure they were not used to radicalize students at the same time imploring religious leaders to refrain from preaching hate.
“The church is concerned by the number of Kenyans being radicalized to kill their colleagues, we are also concerned that those in the know are not making public the information they have. Kenyans should support the government and give information on any suspicious tendencies,” he added.