The long closure and the reopening of Garissa University College that followed an attack by Al-Shabaab militant group offered an opportunity for one amateur photographer to document the destruction as well as the reopening and the healing process of the university community.
Two years ago this month, the Somali based Al-Shabaab militant group attacked the university in Kenya’s northern town of Garissa, killing 148 people with 142 of them being university students.
In the aftermath of the attack, the university remained shut for months, in what local leaders said would be a sign of victory for the militant group.
Eduardo Moreno is now showcasing his first photo exhibition. There is nothing unusual about that until you take a closer look at the work on exhibition and talk to the amateur photographer, who works as researcher on sustainable cities at UN Habitat.
Moreno says he funded his journey to Garissa by himself, “I paid myself because some people told me it is a risky place for the UN, it is not easy to go there and I wanted to show that places like that should be (busy). The more they are busy, the more density they have and therefore there is less possibility of something like this happening.”
Garissa University College is the first institution of higher learning in the North of Kenya – a frontier to Somalia.
“I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone who is a student or any human being. Coming to this event brings back memories but uses them as a sign of hope,” says a Kenyatta University student and exhibition attendee, Halima Sadia.
Moreno uses colour to contrast the events following one of the worst terror attacks on Kenyan soil. He uses black and white to depict the emptiness just after the attack and coloured photos to illustrate the reopening, reconstruction and healing process.
“I wanted a tribute to present how people, the students, the professors and the university itself was changing, literally, colours from black to red, and some yellow which is the future all that is nice of the future of humanity. I also wanted to show that a university like Garissa that remained closed for too long was not a good idea; a university is the best terror to terrorists.”
The institution has since reopened with 581 students drawn from across Kenya, in a way, shattering the fear that the insurgents hoped to instil.
“That is exactly what the university is: a melting point. It’s a place where ideas and religions and cultures converge and this convergence is a very important story to show,” says Moreno.
The exhibition will run at the United Nations offices in Nairobi until the end of this month.
– By Sarah Kimani