PM has no regrets over protest

March 11, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 11 – Just a day after students from the University of Nairobi looted and caused an ugly traffic snarl up in Nairobi, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said he had no regrets in supporting their right to protest.

He maintained that it was their democratic right to do so though he said it was unfortunate that hooligans hijacked the ‘peaceful’ demonstration.

“I still stand by my decision to allow the students to exercise their democratic right to demonstrate for the killing of their colleague. The demonstration was peaceful, but towards the end some hooligans took advantage and got involved in stealing,” he said.

The PM said some student leaders from the university visited him in his office on Wednesday to apologise for the chaos that erupted hours into the demonstration.

“In fact some student leaders are here to say how remorseful they are,” he revealed.

On the issue of compensating those who had their property vandalised or looted, the Premier said that the government was yet to confirm the extent of the damage reported by the media.

“We still are yet to know what exactly happened, we have not been told exactly what transpired.”

A few minutes after leaving the Prime Minister’s office, the students went to the premises of businesses that were looted and apologised to the owners, saying they were prepared to look for monetary or material options to help the businesses recoup their losses.

Lead by the Students’ Union chairman Dan Mwangi, the students expressed their remorse, while acknowledging that their apologies would not be sufficient in restoring the losses and damages incurred during Tuesday’s protest.

“We would like to convey our apologies on behalf of those strangers who we don’t know, and we will look into how we can ensure that next time when we have a demo no one infringes on our rights to be peaceful.”

Mr Mwangi absolved his colleagues of responsibility in the chaos, claiming that looters and goons had taken advantage of their demonstration to steal.

“Our demo was three hours, we finished at 12.30pm and even those who looted were not in our official T-shirts, which we were wearing,” he said.

“When we finished our demos people went back to do their exams while others went back for prayers in their hostels; it is not students who were involved in anyway whether directly or indirectly in the chaos that happened yesterday (Tuesday),” he said.

Looters grabbed milk from the nearby Nakumatt Lifestyle as well as snacks and cakes from the Books First Café.

Books First manager Owen Matende Chere told Capital News that he was prepared to forgive the students, but called for compensation for the damaged facilities at the establishment.

“Forgiveness is one issue but there are consequences. We have had a loss, will there be any compensation? There the customers who had been threaten and mugged, our stock that has been stolen and our products and displays have been broken; who will pay for that?” he asked.

Mr Chere said that they were unable to give the exact cost of damages and losses they incurred as a result of the action.

“There is television footage at the initial moment that can be used by the police to identify and track down those who carried out the looting. That way we can know if it was the students, or looters who took advantage of the situation,” said the manager.


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