“It’s a world problem”: Terrorist Attacks in Kenya Affect K

By Olivia Nalguya, Contributor

Kalamazoo College Juniors studying abroad in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Heenan)

September 21, 2013 strayed far from merriment in one of the most affluent and festive cities in East Africa.  This day marked the beginning of a 4-day upheaval in Westgate Mall situated in the heart of Nairobi, where a terrorist group idenitified as Al Shabaab went on a shooting spree and held hostages. According to Daily Nation, a local newspaper in Kenya, 67 people were killed and 61 are missing.

Kenya is one of the countries that have contributed troops to the African Union against Al Shabaab in Somalia, thus the attack was perceived as retribution.

Shortly after they invaded Westgate Mall, Al Shabaab tweeted: “The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders.”

Kalamazoo College Professor of English Babli Sinha commented, “They seem to be more about power and sadistic violence than about the religion.”

There are K students currently studying abroad at the University of Nairobi. The Center for International Programs (CIP) has confirmed that all of them are safe and several steps have been taken to maintain their safety.

“Our first priority when an event like this happens is we want to first assure the physical safety of our students so we work closely with our onsite staff,” said Dr. Margaret Wiedenhoeft CIP Associate Director.

Students were given the choice of continuing the program or coming back to K for fall quarter. President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran added, “The first issue was our own students.”

President Wilson-Oyelaran further indicated that when such events occur, “People want everything to be clear and it can’t be clear.” She also advised that it would be apt for the College to gather as a community to “talk about what this means.”

Currently, K sophomores are thinking about applying for study abroad programs, including Kenya. It is imperative that students are not discouraged from the program just because of the incident. Ms. Wiedenhoeft advised that students thinking of the program should take time to familiarize themselves with the region to better understand the context of the event.

Dalmas Odira, a visiting-international student from Kenya cautiously remarked, “Terrorism is a world problem so people should not confine it to Kenya.”