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A wave of solidarity for Garissa

- By Wits University

 The Wits community came out in large numbers today in solidarity with Kenya and the families whose loved ones were massacred when the militant group al-Shabaab attacked Garissa University College killing 148 students. The vigil and march organised by the University together with the Wits SRC and Wits Branch of Amnesty International started on the West Campus and proceeded to the Great Hall where speakers spoke against the attack on students and terrorism in Africa. 

In the opening address, Shaka Sisulu, a social activist and alumnus of Garissa, said that it is appropriate that students across Africa show solidarity with those who were killed  and to say “No” to terrorism. Sisulu expressed confidence that the massive wave of youth at the march would be the next wave of liberation that will unite Africans and also lead economic and cultural liberation on the continent.

Echoeing Sisulu’s remarks, the SRC President Mcebo Dlamini spoke against the loss of human values and was critical of Kenya’s rush to save Somalia when it could not secure the safety of its own people. Dlamini drew attention to the fact that "youth is the target of all sorts of terrorism acts all over Africa".

Martin Owuri from the High Commission of Kenya in South Africa advised the students to guard themselves against the influence of terrorism and perpetuating crimes against their own people. Kenyan authorities report that a Garissa student was involved in the killings at the college. Terrorist groups have also been targeting and recruiting youth to advance their cause.  

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Habib had strong words for al-Shabaab.

Habib said that although the Islamist militant group al-Shabab had violated the sacrosanct principles cherished by universities world-wide, the extremist group had not succeed in its mission to divide humanity.

Habib said that the march was to assert two fundamental principles – that of human bonds and that of universities as a safe space where ideas circulate freely without fatal consequences.

"We are part of a human community that is tolerant of its differences and that forms human bonds. Universities bring people together of different religious groups, people of all racial groups, all ethnic groups, all nationalities and it brings them together because we forge the bonds of a common humanity. That is what universities are meant to do. When those terrorists walked into Garissa University College, they tried to fracture the bonds of a common humanity."

“We assert that together we are Africans and we are human. As part of a university community and as part of a common humanity, we say to you (al-Shabaab) have not succeeded and we will continue to forge the bonds of humanity,” Habib.

The Wits Muslim Students Association once again rejected al-Shabaab and reiterating that the terrorist group does not speak in the name of Islam nor does it have a religious mandate.

A moment of silence was observed during which candles were lit in remembrance of all those who lost their lives.

The march was also attended by members of public.

David Okwach, a Kenyan businessman in Braamfontein said that when he heard of the march, he decided to join to pay tribute to his fellow Kenyans.


Report by Refilwe Mabula and Buhle Zuma.