NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – Over 100 students were arrested on Tuesday afternoon as police stormed the University of Nairobi’s main campus while lobbing tear gas canisters as they dispersed a demonstration called to protest a controversial fee increase.
The police broke down classroom doors and in some instances beat up the students as they sought to quell the mass action which had turned into a cat and mouse game.
The demonstrations which were largely peaceful in the morning quickly turned violent as the huge crowd of students drawn from various universities disrupted traffic and robbed several motorists.
They poured into the Central Business District forcing traders to hurriedly close their premises for fear of looting. READ Shops shut in Nairobi CBD as varsity students protest
“‘Kaimenyi must go! Kaimenyi must go,’ they chanted as others sang; ‘Eee Mungu nguvu yetu, ilete baraka kwetu’ and ‘yote yawezekana bila vita.’”
Their plan to take a petition to the Education Secretary’s office was thwarted after they were dispersed by anti-riot policemen.
Nairobi Police Chief Benson Kibue told Capital FM News that they would not allow the students to proceed with their demonstration after a section of them turned rowdy.
“In any demonstration, you must do it in such a way as not to interrupt or interfere with the activities of other Kenyans. When you cause an obstruction or instil fear among by-standers, then that ceases to be a peaceful demonstration,” he said.
Following this, the students retreated into the campus where they engaged the police in running battles before they were subdued when the anti-riot officers entered the university and flushed out those hiding in buildings using tear gas.
“We as comrades will not be cowed. We will not be bullied by anyone. Our voice must be heard and we will not keep quiet. Let them beat us this time round but we will not relent in our quest for justice,” one of the demonstrating students stated during the procession.
The strike paralysed transport on Uhuru Highway, University Way and other roads near the campus as police engaged the students in running battles.
Similar protests were reported in various public universities across the country.
At the Maseno University, students who were protesting the fee hike converged on the Kisumu-Busia highway and blocked it, forcing motorists to find alternative routes to their destinations.
“Comrades Power! Comrades Power! Right now, families are living below the poverty line, the economy is low and by increasing varsity fees, we are denying young people the opportunity to learn; in other words, we are denying this country future professionals,” one of the leaders said.
Police who were watching at a distance lost patience as the students started pelting motorists who attempted to go through with stones.
Teargas was lobbed at the students and in return they threw stones at the officers. However police managed to clear the road for motorists.
In Kisumu City that hosts a number of university colleges, students from different universities came together and staged a demonstration within the city streets.