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Survivors of Garissa University attack recall deadly ordeal

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Two bullets struck Ronald Magembe Morang’a, 25, on his jaw, blew off his left ear, and ripped fingers off his left hand.

Morang’a, who lives in Nyankumbati village in Kisii County, is one of the survivors of the Garissa University terrorist attack which claimed 148 lives, leaving at least 80 others with serious injuries five years ago.

It was about 5:30am when Morang’a, then a second year Bachelor of Education student, heard the first shot. “When we realised the power had not gone off after the initial explosion, we rushed towards the window,” he recalls.

Unfortunately, that’s when he was shot. “I fell on the ground and darkness engulfed me. I was awoken up by my vibrating phone hours later. It was my mother calling and I could not pick the call for fear of being shot again.

“Gunshots rented the air, I was bleeding profusely. I crawled towards the hostel, where I joined another student. He was shaken, and ran away when he saw me. I crawled under a bed. I was so dehydrated that I started drinking my own blood. It was horrible,” he says.

“By then, soldiers had arrived and I begged one of them for water but he refused, saying it’s unhealthy for a bleeding person to drink water.” Medical experts say giving water to such a person causes dilution of blood that can lead to collapse or death.

Depression

Mr Morang’a, who graduated in 2018 with a degree in education after completing his studies at Moi University, recalls how soldiers rushed him to a waiting ambulance, then to a local hospital for first aid and later to the Defence Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.

“I was admitted for three weeks.

Sadly after graduation, I haven’t been lucky on the job market because of my disability; my ears were affected,” he says.

“I am pleading with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and secondary school boards of management to come to my aid. I just idle at home, which is stressful and could even lead to depression.”

Another victim, Rachel Gikonyo, who lost a limb, offers: “I have accepted my condition and, together with my family, moved on. That was a horrible scene. I thank God I survived.”

Three other students — Stephen Waweru, Collins Waliaula and John Ongama — survived the attack ‘miraculously’.

Terrible experience Waweru and Waliaula had just arrived at the institution from a two-day student leaders’ forum held at Moi University in Eldoret.

Waweru was the secretary-general of the Garissa University Students’ Union while Waliaula was the vice-chairman.

After their arrival, Waweru retired to bed at about 1am but was woken up by gunshots.

“I was confused and could not run out. I decided to hide in my room where I stayed for about 13 hours. I was eventually rescued by soldiers,” Waweru recalls.

“It was a terrible experience. I had made up my mind that I would stay in the wardrobe for days until the Kenya Defence Forces soldiers called me out of my hiding.”

He was then a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Information Science degree.

Waliaula, however, braved the gunshots and dashed out of the hostel. “I was lucky because they fired at me but missed because I rolled on the ground several times.

That’s how I saved my life, I thank God,” says Waliaula, now a teacher atMakunga Secondary School.

For Ongama, it was more painful as his friend, Thomas Mururi, died in his arms. “We were in a group of about 50 students running and rolling towards the fence. Mururi was shot as he attempted to stand up and run,” Ongama recalls.

“The fence was a nightmare.

Getting out without being shot was a miracle. We decided to save the girls. Using sticks, we created space in the fence through which we helped them out. Outside, we met an old man who took us in.”

Military camp

Ongama, who hails from Luanda in Vihiga County, says the old man reached out to a local chief for help.

“He was good to us. The chief responded swiftly. Soldiers were still battling the terrorists, we could still hear gunshots. We were taken to the Garissa military camp,” he says.

Kweya Opande, the then-Dean of Students, the trip to Moi University for the leaders’ meeting and his decision to remain in Nairobi where his family lived, saved his life.

“I was part of the 14-member delegation that had attended the student leaders’ mentorship programme at Moi University. We left on April 1 and I stayed in Nairobi to see my family. Other members of the team left for Easter Holidays while others returned to Garissa.

Fateful day

“Little did we know that some would die in such a horrendous way,” he recalls. Opande, now the Dean of Students at Maseno University, had been at Garissa University for barely a year.

“At the time of the attack, the university had about 850 students.

On the fateful day, a student called me at 5:30am, and I could hear gunshots in the background. She was in shock and could not express herself so I hanged up and tried to reach security guards at the institution to inquire what was happening,” says Opande.

When the guards failed to pick up his calls, he called the deputy principal. He also failed to respond, prompting him to inform the police.

Opande says that the most heart-wrenching scene was April 3, a day after the attack, when students’ bodies were flown to Nairobi.

“As the dean, I had to be there to receive the bodies and help in identification. Some 21 bodies were brought in bags, I could not believe it. They were later taken to Chiromo Mortuary,” he recalls.

Opande attended most of the funerals in different parts of the country. “It was not a good experience, since then I have never stepped in Northern Kenya.”

He urges the government to enhance safety in learning institutions and warns against the proposal to arm staff in Northern Kenya.

“Arming people who are not trained on security measures will be more detrimental,” says Opande.

He wants the government to track down survivors of the attack and offer them employment.

“I know some of them who are even being stigmatised as a result of their deformities, this was not out of their making. They need assistance and close monitoring,” he offers.

The attack

ONE OF DEADLIEST ATTACKS IN KENYA

Al-Shabaab took responsibility for the attack in Garissa.

The gunmen took over 700 students hostage, freeing Muslims and killing those who identified as Christians.

The siege ended the same day, when all four of the attackers were killed by GSU commandos.

Five men were later arrested in connection with the attack, and a bounty was placed for the arrest of a suspected organiser.

It was the deadliest since the 1998 US Embassy attack.

Gunshots rented the air, I was bleeding profusely. I crawled towards the hostel and hid under a bed. I was so dehydrated that I started drinking my own blood. It was horrible.”

By Nation


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Business

Top athlete turns to jiko-making to beat pandemic

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They say a man must do what a man must do.

This idiom has become a reality to Dominic Samson Ndigiti, the reigning Africa U20 10,000 metres walk race champion and former World U17 10,000 metres walk race bronze medalist during the Covid-19 times.

Ndigiti, who has won Kenya a gold medal at the Africa Under-20 Championships held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has been crisscrossing the country, doing what he now loves to do most: Making affordable, energy-saving jikos – charcoal cooking stoves.

Coronavirus pandemic

Though the walking race champion learnt the skills of making this particular kind of jiko in 2018 when in Finland where he had gone for a competition, he did not put them to use until when coronavirus hit the world, putting a break on most sporting activities.

“I saw the whites making the jikos in 2018 when we had gone to Finland for Under20 competitions. It took a week for me to learn. But I started being serious when coronavirus hit us. The jikos now earn me a living,” he said.

The 20-year-old says the modern jikos use charcoal or firewood.

“It uses less firewood and it has a chimney, which helps keep smoke out of the house. It is not a complicated jiko and long after cooking is done, it conserves heat because of the clay bricks used,” he said.

The jikos are of different sizes and can fit in any kind of house be it permanent, temporary or semi-permanent.

“I do not discriminate for which house to make my jikos. Charges vary according to sizes. A one-stoned jiko goes for Sh3,000, two 4,500, three 6,000 and four and above goes for Sh10,000,” said Ndigiti.

He says that materials needed include cement, clay bricks, fireproof and red-oxide paint.

Different work

Ndigiti says many people see him as a successful person owing to his record in the walking race, but the tough times have forced him to work differently.

“I am grateful because Kenyans have responded very well to my venture. I have visited many counties in the past few months, making jikos. Before coronavirus, I did not know my home county of Kisii well, though I have was born and brought up here, but making jikos has made me a tourist,” he said.

Ndigiti, who hails from Marani sub-county in Kisii County, schooled at Kiandega High School in Nyamira county and developed a passion for the walking race while in Standard Six.

He says he was inspired by his teachers.

“I am glad for the achievement I have made in walking race. That is another gift in addition to walking that God has given me. Many people in Kenya do not know this kind of sporting activity. China, Spain and Japan top the competitions,” he said.

The IAAF World U18 Championships is an international event bringing together athletes from all over the world who are 17 or younger.

“Coronavirus brought a lot of problems in the world and we couldn’t go out to compete. I hope this will end soon. But this pandemic has made me learn the hard way. Talents are to be exploited, no matter how much little income they bring,” said Ndigiti.

He is hopeful that after the pandemic, he will represent Kenya in the Olympics and will bring home a gold medal.

Ndigiti comes from a humble family and his success in the walking race has not taken away his humility.

Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

“We live life easy. Living well with people has taught me a lot during this coronavirus time. The requests to make more jikos is overwhelming,” he said, adding that Elgeyo Marakwet Woman Rep Jane Kiptoo has already asked for his help in making more than 100 jikos for women groups.

He says most of his clients are women. “They have embraced my idea of making our kitchens look better.”


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Lifestyle

Man who died inside city matatu did not succumb to Covid-19

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The man who died in a matatu along Mombasa road on Tuesday was not killed by Covid-19 as it was initially feared, the Nation has learnt.

Tests on samples taken from the man, who has been identified as Leonard Odhiambo, 57, turned negative for coronavirus.

City Mortuary deputy funeral superintendent Patrick Mbugua, however, said a post-mortem had not been done to determine the cause of death.

“The man was brought to the mortuary and the Covid-19 test came back negative. We suspect he died of blood pressure issues owing to the sudden manner of his death. However, we are still waiting for the post-mortem results. It was not Covid-19,” Mr Mbugua said on Thursday.

On Tuesday at around 7.30am, the matatu had left the ambassador bus stop in the city centre and was picking passengers along the way on its route to Embakasi.

Before 8am, Mr Odhiambo boarded the Embassava Sacco 14-seater matatu popularly known as Manchester at the South B bus stop as he was headed to Embakasi.

He sat on a seat at the row behind the driver’s cabin next to the passenger door. The row has three seats, but owing to Covid-19 regulations, it only had two passengers.

Slightly past Panari Hotel, at an area called Lab, the passenger seated next to Mr Odhiambo wanted to alight. As usual, the passenger next to the door is expected to alight to pave way for the other passengers to get off.

Mr Odhiambo did not move. Thinking he was asleep, the conductor tapped his shoulder. Nothing happened. With a strong nudge, the man is said to have heaved, coughed out aloud and slumped on his seat. It is suspected he breathed his last at this point.

His family went to the morgue on Wednesday evening but did not pick their departed one as they still await the post-mortem results.

by Nation.africa


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Was soldier’s macabre murder premeditated?

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The gruesome murder of Lazarus Mwangi, 25, a junior soldier, seems to have been well- planned and executed.

Mwangi’s body was mutilated, eyes gouged, all limbs and hands broken. His body was found dumped at Masinga Dam in Machakos on November 22.

On November 14, Mwangi left his residence at Kahawa Barracks in Kiambu county after informing his seniors he was going to pick a parcel he had been sent from Mariakani Barracks in Kilifi.

That was the last time he was seen alive.

Mwangi had been initially posted to Mariakani Barracks in 2016 before his mysterious transfer to Kahawa Barracks in December 2019.

His transfer had, however, raised eyebrows because it is rare for a junior soldier of his rank to be transferred within that time frame.

Yesterday, a senior army official told People Daily that transfers rarely happen, especially with young and inexperienced soldiers.

“If a young soldier has been transferred, such a move can only be considered when he has specialised on a specific field and his expertise are required elsewhere. That is when a transfer can occur,” the officer who sought anonymity said. The deceased is said to have informed his wife, Ms Doris Muhoro, that he had gone to pick a parcel. On the fateful night, Muhoro tried several times to reach her husband but the calls went unanswered. She fell asleep.

However, during the night, Muhoro’s phone was called eight times by a private number at around 3am but she never answered because she was dead asleep and could not hear it ringing.

In Dagoretti, Nairobi the same night at 3am, Ms Jackline Wangeci, Mwangi’s sister, also received a call from a private number.

The caller who said that he was calling from Gilgil in Nakuru informed her that her brother had been kidnapped.

Same day
On November 15, Mwangi’s family shared what had transpired that night and efforts to trace him started the same day.

The deceased kin reported the matter at Kikuyu Police Station where both Ms Muhoro and Ms Wangeci recorded statements on what had transpired since the disappearance of Mwangi.

A detective privy to the investigations, and who spoke to People Daily on condition of anonymity said Mwangi’s phone Global Positioning System (GPS) history was traced to Muthurwa in Nairobi.

The detective further said that already, a woman had been arrested in connection with Mwangi’s death after sleuths attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations traced the people who called him on the day he disappeared.

“The people who called his sister saying they were calling from Gilgil were traced to Kamukunji. Already some arrests have been made,” the sleuth said.

Detectives have also obtained a series of chats between his brother based in South Sudan and an investigating officer. “They killed him after kidnapping him. We believe it was a bait. There was nothing like a parcel he was supposed to pick,” the brother said.

Masinga Police boss Francis Siror confirmed that residents recovered a badly mutilated body and informed them.

Consequently, the police informed the family who picked and transferred it to Thika Teaching and Referral Hospital Mortuary.

An autopsy conducted yesterday established that Mwangi was strangled to death.

by PD.co.ke


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