NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – Kenyatta University was closed indefinitely on Wednesday after hours of violent protests by students over examination registration deadline.
Students engaged police in running battles and even blocked a section of Thika road for several hours.
An unknown number of vehicles were damaged by the rioting students who pelted them with stones as they protested a decision by their Vice Chancellor Prof Olive Mugenda to lock out more than 2,000 students from registering for their semester examinations.
“It is not logical for her to say that those who have not paid fees in full will not register for examinations. Worse still, there are those who paid fees after the deadline and yet they can not be registered. It is a big joke,” Erick Njoroge, a third year student in the education faculty said.
He told Capital News that students were angered by Prof Mugenda’s directive that students who had not completed payment of fees vacate the university ‘because they are not bonafide students’.
“How can she dare say that? Why should they impose deadlines more than two weeks before the exams start with these tough economic times? We should be given time to settle our fees balances,” another student who did not wish to be named protested.
Dozens of anti-riot police officers lobbed tear gas canisters at the protesting students for about an hour before the situation degenerated into more chaos, when the students came out and blocked a section of Thika highway with stones.
At one point, police had to shoot in the air to force the students to return to campus.
No major casualty was reported.
Head of Police Operations in Nairobi Province Wilfred Mbithi said his officers were under strict instructions not to shoot at the students.
“Our officers are careful not to shoot at the rioting students. We are using minimum force to ensure the situation is contained,” he said.
When the situation threatened to get out of hand at about 1 pm, a closure notice was quickly pinned up on boards and others circulated to notify the students of the indefinite closure.
Many were caught by surprise and rushed to pack and leave as directed by their Vice Chancellor.
“I did not expect this, why did she have to close the campus over riots yet this is an issue that could have been solved amicably?” Michael Ojwang’, a second year student posed.
The students were given 15 minutes to vacate the campus or risk forceful eviction by anti-riot police officers who had cordoned off the university.