Forest sale fires activists

April 2, 1999

Kenya's high court has temporarily stopped the University of Nairobi from disciplining 68 students who joined demonstrations against the allocation of a Nairobi forest for real estate development to politically connected businessmen and ruling-party activists.

The university accused the students of destroying property and burning cars and buses. Several student leaders, including the chairman and secretary-general of the local students' organisation, faced a separate charge of defying orders to persuade their colleagues to attend lectures.

The students denied the charges through their lawyer, James Orengo, a prominent opposition member of Kenya's parliament and a leading government critic. The students went to court after being summoned to appear before disciplinary committees chaired by principals. The senate published names of those to be disciplined in the local press.

Mr Orengo told the court that university authorities were out to victimise. "My clients are innocent, and we ask the court to rule against the university holding kangaroo courts in order to justify the unjust indefinite closure of the university campuses."

All five campuses of the university were closed after the protests over the Karura forest development.

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