The Strathmore University Drill Tragedy and Kenya’s Terrorism Problem

On Monday, November 30th, a Kenyan woman died after jumping from a top floor window in the face of a surprise terror drill at Strathmore University in Nairobi. Around 30 people were injured as several students jumped from windows on high elevations of buildings. The woman who died was named Esther Kidemba, and she was a staff member for the University. Kidemba died of “severe head injuries.”

The terrorist attack simulation included loud noises, “gun shots,” and people pretending to be terrorists. The Kenyan police, understandably, are confused as to how a drill of this magnitude was not checked with any higher authority first. They released a statement stating that they would like to “dissuade institutions from undertaking such drills on their own…this must not happen again.”

The Vice Chancellor has now made a public statement that he had not been aware of the terrorist drill and that he believed it was a real attack. The drill was alledgedly planned by security managers at the school without the permission or knowledge of the university’s administration. He has publically apologized, nonetheless, stating: “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.”

The incident at Strathmore University speaks to the pervasive high level of terror and paranoia on the part of institutions and individuals. This collective mentality of fear is most likely evoked by the recent increase in terrorist attacks in Kenya—namely the 2012 Al-Shabaab attacks, the 2013 Westgate mall shooting in which 67 people were killed by al-Shabaab, and the 2015 Garissa attack in which 147 students were killed at Garissa University.

Furthermore, the paranoia is likely exacerbated by the fact that the Kenyan parliament has been working on anti-terrorism legislation since prior to the Garissa attack. In December of 2014, a very tough anti-terrorism law was passed in an extremely controversial parliamentary session. In the following February, the majority of the bill was thrown out, as opposition claimed enactment of the bill would make Kenya a police state. Now, with the Garissa attack and the Strathmore University drill tragedy in mind, officials must question whether Kenya has already reached this status, except with al-Shabaab and the prospect of terrorism doing the policing.

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