A tale of two marches

Wits hosted two solidarity marches this week. The march on Monday was dedicated to Kenya and Tuesday was for Nigeria. Even though the idea was to march in solidarity, the turn out differed for each event.

A solidarity March For Kenya

Wits staff and students, led by vice-chancellor Adam Habib, marched in silence across the campus on Monday in solidarity with those affected by the massacre of 147 Kenyan students at Garissa University College earlier this month.

About 700 people, mostly dressed in black and with candles in their hands, marched from the FNB Building on West Campus to the steps of the Great Hall around lunchtime. Violet Molefe, the chairperson of Amnesty International at Wits, one of the organisers of the event, said the purpose of the march was not only to express solidarity with Kenya but also to introduce a new struggle for African youth.

Solidarity March for Kenya, with V.C Adam Habib .  Photo by: Reuven Blignault

Solidarity March for Kenya, with V.C Adam Habib .
Photo by: Reuven Blignault

“As we march, we stand in solidarity with the students from Kenya,” she said. “All of the time you see students being  angry, this is time to rise up as young leadership, not let the past generations to fix our problems,” Molefe said.

A solidarity March For Nigeria

In the same spirit of solidarity on Tuesday the School of Language, Literature and Media also marched. This was to  remember the Chibok girls from Nigeria who were abducted in April 2014. Led by the head of the Media Studies  department, Mehita Iqani, to the Great Hall, no more than 20 students attended. They had a moment of silence to  remember and remind themselves that it has already been a year.

According to Dr Ufuoma Akpojivi, who organised the march, the main reason the turnout was low was because  students think the Nigerian girls are forgotten. He also said the march was planned at the last minute.

“I met a student who said, please just forget about the bring back our girls,” he said. “I told her, let’s forget about  whether the girls are coming back or not, let’s create awareness,” said Akpojivi.

Akpojivi told Wits Vuvuzela the objective of the march was to create awareness and this was achieved.

“I am happy with the small turnout, because we managed to create awareness amongst our students,” said Akpojivi.

For Amnesty International organisers, despite having less than a week to plan their Garissa solidarity march, the turnout was bigger. They had a week to organise the event.

“We didn’t expect that much support,” Molefe said.

Wits marches in solidarity for Garissa

NATIONAL PRIDE: Kenyans and supporters of the Kenyan Solidarity March today walk proudly with the Kenya flag  Photo by: Reuven Blignault

NATIONAL PRIDE: Kenyans and supporters of the Kenyan Solidarity March today walk proudly with the Kenya flag at Wits University earlier today.  Photo by: Reuven Blignault

Wits University staff and students, led by vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, marched in silence across the campus today in solidarity with those affected by the massacre of 147 Kenyan students at Garissa University College earlier this month.

Close to 700 people, most dressed in black and with candles in their hands, marched from the FNB Building on west campus to the steps of the Great Hall around lunchtime. Violet Molefe, the chairperson of Amnesty International-Wits, one of the organisers of the event, said the purpose of the march was not only to stand in solidarity with Kenya but also to introduce a new struggle for the youth of the African continent.

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“As we march, we stand in solidarity with the students from Kenya,” she said. “All of the time you see students being angry, this is time to rise up as young leadership, not let the past generations to fix our problems,” Molefe added.

South African celebrity Gerry Elsdon told Wits Vuvuzela that the gathering reminded her of South Africa in the 1970s. “We lived in the life of fear in the 1970s and 80s for different reasons, but the fear was the same, this event took me back into my past.”

“This is not the future that we want for our children,” said Elsdon.

“Today we stand as Africans, we are all the students of Garissa”
Dr Jane Wathuta, a Kenyan post-doctoral fellow at Wits believes that students should look out for each other and the march was a positive sign that they are doing this.

Wathuta said, “We should not allow ourselves to be indifferent, we can’t think that this has nothing to do with me.”

Professor Habib, who addressed the crowd, said “today we stand as Africans, but we also stand also stand as part of the University community, and as part of common humanity”.

“White, Black, Muslim, Christian, Jew and any other religion, of all ethnic backgrounds today we are not Wits students, we not South Africans, we not Africans only, we are all the students of Garissa University,” he said.

Jane Wanguo, a Kenyan PhD student in African Literature, the massacre was painful beyond words and could only say “pole sana”, (I’m sorry), to the people of Kenya.

147 people, mostly students were brutally massacred on April 2 when Al-Shabaab militants invaded the Garissa University College campus, in in Kenya. El-Shabbab, a militant group, has claimed responsibility for the killings and Kenyan authorities claim to have captured and killed all the attackers.

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