The international and local media coverage of the Garissa University College shootings, which saw at least 147 people killed by Al-Shabaab militia, has been heavily criticised. While names of the attackers have been widely published, the victims have often been reduced to a number: 147.
In response, Kenyans online have made efforts to give names and faces to the victims of the barbaric violence.
Blogging at the Africa is a Country blog, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina said Kenya is “not a nation if we can’t properly memorialize each and every citizen we lose”:
I want to see the names ages and photographs of those who died in Mpeketoni. Those killed during PEV. Stories. Forgetting is not good. It is in these acts, our public commons reawaken. The politics of saying we are not ready to face ourselves, the fullness of our pain, is the same politics that allows us to ignore it when a Kenyan strips the institution they are given to run, strips it dry, dry, and returns like a zombie, a plastic rubber-band zombie in some new form, to govern somewhere else again.
I want to see three million Nairobians flood the streets to cry, and sing, and hug because our children have been killed. I want to stop feeling that we live inside mostly the private. I want never to hear the word self-empowerment again.
On Twitter, Ory Okolloh Mwangi explained why it is important in African culture to name the victims:
Naming and naming ceremonies a big deal in African culture. Signifies life past, present, future. And so we will name them one by one.
— Ory Okolloh Mwangi (@kenyanpundit) April 5, 2015
In order to humanise the victims, some Twitter users have tweeted the hashtag #147notjustanumber to share their names and photos:
— Tom Vandenbosch (@TVandenbosch) April 5, 2015
— Mr. B (@Benogola) abril 5, 2015
— Ian (@ianmslim) abril 6, 2015
— Maskani Ya Taifa (@Maskani254) abril 6, 2015
— #147notjustanumber (@Lovefied) abril 6, 2015
As attackers get headlines and their names live in immortality, their victims are forgotten as just statistics. #147notjustanumber
— DM Licker (@Owaahh) April 6, 2015
@Reclvse wrote that it is about lives and not statistics:
I like how Kenyans are mentioning names & telling stories of the Garissa attack victims to ensure #147notjustanumber. Lives, not statistics.
— [uncens***d] (@Reclvse) April 5, 2015
@lunarnomad spoke about the intention behind the hashtag:
— mango (@lunarnomad) April 6, 2015
Mary Njeri Mburu tweeted:
— Mary Njeri Mburu (@mburumaria) abril 6, 2015
Eunice shared a Kenyan proverb, under a different hashtag — #KenyanLivesMatter, a spin on the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States:
— Eunice (@EuniceKira) April 5, 2015