Revoke student ban - Leakey

March 6, 1998

Opposition politicians in Kenya have delivered an ultimatum to public universities to re-admit all students expelled over the years for their involvement in pro-democracy demonstrations.

Led by palaeontologist and conservationist Richard Leakey, the politicians warned that if the universities failed to re-admit these agitators, learning activities will be paralysed.

Addressing 5,000 students at a memorial service for a student who died last year in a mysterious fire in his hostel, Dr Leakey called on Kenyatta University vice-chancellor George Eshiwani to revoke suspensions of 17 students who protested at the killing of a colleague during recent ethnic clashes.

Michael Ndirangu was killed in conflict that has claimed the lives of up to 80 people and students claimed that members of the government were behind the violence. They were further angered when university authorities said Mr Ndirangu was no longer regarded as a student because of his allegedly poor academic record.

As Dr Leakey and other opposition politicians were addressing students at the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University re-opened three weeks ago but barred hundreds of students in fee arrears. Students were required to pay all arrears for the 1997-98 academic year before registration.

Two students were expelled last month and 15 others suspended for between one and four years for allegedly organising demonstrations that forced last month's closure. Student sources claimed that only 2,400 students were able to register out of 8,000.

John Shiundu, the university's academic registrar, said students without fees should stay away from the campus: "The university will not reverse the decision."

Excluded students have told Professor Eshiwani they will disrupt classes if they are barred from lectures.

Mukhisa Kituyi, an opposition MP, has accused the loans board of denying loans to students from opposition areas. A former senior lecturer in government at the University of Nairobi, Dr Kituyi is expected to raise the matter in parliament.

Students and other pro-democracy pressure groups have been urging the loans board to publish names of recipients with their districts of origin. However, the board secretary has evaded this demand by claiming it was absurd for anyone to imagine that loans could be given selectively in favour of certain communities.

Dr Leakey, now an MP and general secretary of Safina Party (The Ark), called for a review of Kenya's university system. He said incompetent government appointed vice-chancellors were responsible for falling education standards in Kenya's state universities.

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