Kenya News

Garissa University attack victims sue state for damages

Survivors of the 2015 Garissa University terror attack that claimed 148 lives are seeking compensation for psychological pain and future medical expenses.

The students and Kituo Cha Sheria have blamed the government, security agencies, and the college for failing to take steps to stop the attack, despite having useful intelligence.

The parties filed their petition at the Milimani High Court on Friday.

They say the Recce Squad police airplane should have been used to save time but was held up in a private engagement, a fact that led to a long siege, loss of lives, and serious injuries.

From the court documents, Recce Squad arrived at the scene 12 hours after the attack commenced. The siege continued until about 6.20 pm.

“The delayed deployment of the Recce Squad of the General Service Unit is attributed to abuse of state resources.

“An officer working under the National Police Service allowed the pilot of the police aeroplane to fly his daughter in law and her children from Mombasa to Nairobi, when there were pressing needs of transporting the elite squad to Garissa,” the documents read.

Kituo cha Sheria through lawyer John Mwariri says the delayed deployment of the elite police squad is attributable to the failure by the NPS to prioritize the rescue mission.

The aftermath of that breach was the interdiction of administrative officers and police county commanders on April 23, 2015. But no one has been prosecuted.

The petitioners claim that on April 1, 2015, some of the students received SMS messages indicating an impending terror attack. The same was dismissed as rumours and April Fools Day pranks by the school administration.

What followed was a series of gunshots and grenades being hauled at the school at around 5 am.

Rachael Gikonyo who was a first-year student then said the morning devotion had just started at around 5.10 am.

“Each of us prayed individually for about 20 minutes before holding hands to pray together. Shortly after, there was a loud bang on the door,” she said.

Gikonyo opened her eyes to confirm who it was. To her surprise, she saw two men who had covered their heads.

She said they had a chain of bullets around their necks and a gun on their hand. “The attackers first shot the person leading the prayers in the head.”

Gikonyo who was a Christian Union member says her first reaction was to escape through the window but she perceived it might be dangerous if they chose to follow her.

She then decided to lay down facing the wall, waiting for her turn to be shot at and probably die.

Gikonyo stayed for about five minutes before they attacked her.

“When it was my turn, they shot me in the back. They came around a second time to confirm if the students were dead. They shot me again several times on my back with one bullet penetrating to the frontal rib cage,” she says.

However, she says the attackers did not stop. They came around for the third time and shot her in the legs.

Gikonyo is among seven students out of the 30 at the Christian Union meeting who survived the attack with serious spinal injuries.

She was rescued by the Kenya Red Cross and AMREF at around 12 noon. More than six hours after she was first shot.

Gikonyo’s back injury however deteriorated and she flew to India for surgery, where doctors found a bullet still lodged in her spine.

The bullet was removed but she was left paralysed with lack of bladder control.

“My financial situation is dire due to the constant treatments I receive to date, that is why I seek the courts intervention. I blame the state for failing to take steps to stop the attack, despite having useful intelligence,” she says.

Gikonyo is seeking Sh8 million in compensation while the rest are seeking payouts for general damages, which will be determined by the court.

Another student James Muli recalls the incident with flashbacks of the attackers insulting them.

“Garissa si ya nywele ngumu, ni ya vichwa ngumu. Tumekuja kuwauwa na tukufe pia (Garissa is not for the coarse haired but for the hard headed. We have come to kill you and for us to die),” they said.

Muli says the bullets were being sprayed all over causing a lot of confusion and fear. They could not trace where they were emanating from.

“The terror and pain had engulfed me to the extent of losing consciousness for a few minutes, helplessly waiting to die,” he said.

The former students say they have suffered immense physical, psychological, and emotional pain from the actions and omissions of the state and the school.

They seek general damages and compensation and several declarations against the state among them a violation of their right to life.

The students argue the coordination of state agencies during the Garissa attack was poor leading to a long siege and injured students.

A parliamentary committee said the attack would have been prevented or at least limited to very few casualties had necessary steps been taken.

The observation was made by the Parliamentary Departmental Committee on Administration and National Security on Garissa College.

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