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Survivors of Kenya varsity terror attack reclaim hope after tragedy

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Maureen Kanini has vivid memories of chaos and pandemonium that ensued after four heavily armed terrorists stormed into her university hostel at dawn only to hold innocent young souls to ransom for hours.

Two years after the horrific terrorist attack at Garissa University where Kanini enrolled to pursue a major in Information Sciences, the 22 year old is still struggling to erase the macabre episode from her mind.

Speaking to Xinhua in Nairobi on Monday during an event to mark the 2nd anniversary of Garissa University terrorist attack, Kanini confessed her struggles to overcome memories of a dawn where tranquility gave way to blood and tears.

“The memories of losing close friends during the terrorist attack lingers in me though I am beginning to erase them gradually thanks to intensive therapy sessions,” said Kanini.

On the tragic dawn of April 2, 2015, Kanini and her housemates were preparing for a hectic day of lectures and games when suddenly gunshots and wailing rent the air.

“At first we thought it was a robbery incident in the neighborhood but when the gunshots escalated, it became clear we were under siege and the plausible thing to do was to dash outside and hide in the thickets,” Kanini said.

She was among lucky survivors of a tragedy that claimed the lives of 142 students and six security officers.

Kanini’s youthful energy and optimism suffered a huge blow when Al-Shabaab terrorists killed and maimed her friends and acquaintances at Garissa University but she is gradually finding her voice.

“I am hoping the painful chapter will eventually disappear from our psyche. There is hope for a new beginning defined by hope and optimism,” said Kanini adding that her determination to succeed in her studies has been invigorated.

The Garissa University terrorist attack elicited worldwide condemnation owing to the intensity of its savagery.

The mainly young, versatile and ambitious victims could have lived to see the dawn of a prosperous Kenya had the terrorists spared them the bullet.

Lucky survivors like Geoffrey Ouma have vowed to become champions of peace, love and unity in the community having witnessed the tragic outcomes of hate and intolerance.

The 25 year old business administration major escaped the terrorists’ rifle by a whisker and has also struggled to overcome the painful memory of losing close friends and housemates.

“The horrific slaughter of innocent colleagues as they prepared for morning classes has been a tormenting experience but am hoping time will heal the wounds inflicted on our conscience,” said Ouma.

He defied immense pressure and returned to Garissa University to complete his undergraduate studies after it reopened last year.

“Everyone cursed and vowed never to return to Garissa University after the terrorist attack. Even my own relatives and friends dissuaded me from rejoining a university associated with death and destruction,” Ouma said.

After rigorous counseling, Ouma has gradually erased the painful memories of Garissa university terror attack and is currently a decorated ambassador of peace and cohesion in an institution that was previously reviled.

“I took up the initiative to promote peaceful coexistence among different ethnic and religious groups in our university. There is a profound rejection of ideologies that espouse senseless killing of innocent people in the entire campus,” said Ouma.

Since its reopening early last year, Garissa University has managed to admit close to 600 students from different parts of Kenya.

Eric Onyango, a 24 year old business major also summoned courage and determination to resume studies in the university.

“Luckily I managed to evade the killers during that dawn of unspeakable terror and mayhem in our university. The painful memories are not as raw as they used to be and I look forward to reclaim the lost dreams,” said Onyango.

He is happy to reunite with college mates whose dreams and hopes were shattered by terror but are now on a steady path of recovery.



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