University of Nairobi closed after shootings

November 10, 2000

The University of Nairobi has been closed indefinitely after two students were shot by a government minister's guards outside the Kenyan parliament buildings on November 8.

Students protesting over a judge's refusal to bring forward a hearing of a case they had filed in the high court threw stones at minister Shariff Nassir on his way to parliament. When some students tried to open the minister’s car in a traffic jam, his bodyguards shot at them.

Two students received bullet wounds and were taken to hospital.

The incident provoked running battles between students and regular police until special anti-riot units used tear gas and rubber bullets to drive the students back to the campus.

Police spokesman Peter Kimanthi said it was unfortunate the students had tried to attack the minister, who was unconnected with their grievances over the court case, which involves university admissions procedures.

“Whatever the merits of their grievances, the minister had nothing to do with them, and even if he had, there are more civilised ways of addressing such issues,” Mr Kimanthi said.

The university rejects claims that students admitted to new part-time degree programmes have not satisfied the minimum entry criteria. The students had wanted their legal action  against the university brought forward from November . Sources at the high court said chief justice Bernard Chunga had issued instructions to judges and magistrates to deal firmly with cases involving students.

The incident occurred barely a week after university students beat health minister Sam Ongeri when he attended the funeral of an opposition member of parliament in Kisii, 380km from Nairobi. Eyewitnesses said Mr Ongeri was whisked away by his bodyguards  amid a hail of stones but received serious head injuries. He is still in a Nairobi hospital and doctors say he will be there several weeks.

Student union leader David Sankok said attorney general Amos Wako was to blame for the shootings. “If Wako could have prevailed on the high court judge to reschedule our case, there would have been no confrontation with anyone,” said Sankok. 

Special anti-riot police units in full combat gear yesterday ensured students left the campus before midday.

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