NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 1 – The management of Strathmore University has owned up to poor planning that led to death and injuries during a terrorism drill at the institution on Monday.
Vice Chancellor, Prof John Odhiambo, issued a statement apologising on behalf of the management following the failed drill that was expected to test the university’s disaster preparedness.
“On behalf of the Strathmore University Management Board, I offer an unreserved apology to every student, parent, family, colleague and stakeholder for the unfortunate outcome of the security drill that was carried out in the university,” he said.
Prof Odhiambo disclosed that the university had hired consultants to implement new security measures and conduct sensitisation of the entire campus community on safety procedures.
The agreement, he said, was that after installing new security barriers and other measures, the consultants would train the Strathmore community on safe evacuation procedures in the event of an attack.
He said Monday’s drill was meant to test the measures that had been put in place. But it ended up being a disaster in itself.
The VC explained that the management decided to beef up its preparedness following the Garissa University attack that left 148 people mostly students killed by the Al Shabaab terror group.
Despite the drill flopping, he said the management had learnt big lessons that will help prepare the community in a better way.
He further announced that following the incident, the university had consulted counsellors to help the students cope with the fateful events that everybody has lived to regret.
According to Prof Odhiambo, the university had notified the Langata Police station which was present during the drill.
Earlier, Police Spokesman Charles Owino blamed the university for failing to inform top security organs in the country about the planned drill.
According to Owino, the top security organs were not aware of the drill and in fact disaster teams put in place to respond during terror attacks initially thought the drill was an actual drill.
“All agencies ought to be informed that such an incident will take place. Like in the incident, there are possibilities of even the military sending specialised units and that would find us in a very awkward position. Where you find security agencies fighting each other and yet it was a drill,” he warned.
He said investigations had been launched to explain how people got injured and one person died.
“The issue of death is serious. Ordinarily, a drill is aimed at checking disaster preparedness and not carelessly allowing opportunities for actual disaster as we have witnessed in this particular case,” he said.
Citing challenges that Kenya has been facing due to terrorism with the most frequent being at the Garissa University, Owino cautioned that it was important for authorities to be notified of mock terror attacks.
“The level of alertness is so high in the country following existing terror threats that activities of this nature calling for rapid deployment and mobilisation of specialized security units must only be authorized and be coordinated by the highest security office in the country,” he said.
The confusion during Monday’s incident was so bad that the university had to clarify that it was not a terror attack but a drill.
But moments after clarifying that it was a drill, there was a disaster.
Students and university staff who seemed not to have been aware of the drill ended up getting hurt.
They also lost a staff member Esther Kidambi, who died after she jumped from a higher floor running away from the perceived terrorists.
According to Prof Odhiambo, 30 students and staff were still admitted in various hospitals in Nairobi.
Earlier on Tuesday, Nairobi West Hospital said two students were in the Intensive Care Unit with serious injuries in the lungs and spinal cord.