University of Nairobi: Property destroyed as students riot

University of Nairobi students leave the institution after it was indefinitely closed May 18, 2010 following days of unrest over disputed elections of the Student Organisation of Nairobi University (SONU).

Rioting University of Nairobi students burnt vehicles and caused a traffic snarl up in protests against dissolution of their union.

One of the torched cars belonged to a student at the institution, while the second one was left on the road after they threw stones at its owner.

The cars were reduced to shells in the Sunday night incident. Police tried to repulse the rioters with teargas canisters in vain. Three of the student leaders arrested on Sunday were yesterday charged with incitement to violence at a Nairobi court.

Yesterday, anti-riot police kept vigil outside the campus while the university administration engaged student leaders in talks. The students were also enraged by the nullification of their leaders’ elections after goons raided the counting and tallying hall and disrupted business on Friday night. The university library was broken into and books stolen in the chaos, which VC George Magoha blamed on external political influence.

The students stoned university buildings and the vice-chancellor’s car. They broke into the main campus mess and looted crates of beer.

Yesterday, Higher Education Minister William Ruto ordered the University Senate to table a report on the chaos in his office by today.

He appealed to university administrations to be democratic when dealing with students. Ruto asked the senate to initiate necessary mechanisms for fresh elections to continue the interface between the student fraternity and the university.

Incitement charge

Meanwhile, three students from the University of Nairobi have been charged with incitement to violence.

The three were arrested on Sunday during the riots after the abortive students’ election.

Kimathi Nabeya, Bernard Omondi and Winfred Mukiri appeared before Nairobi Magistrate Grace Macharia yesterday. They, with others not in court, were said to have jointly said “Hatutakubali maneno ya administration (We won’t accept what the administration says)”. Osiani must go.”

They allegedly uttered the words on Saturday at the university’s exhibition hall. Police claim the words meant the university administration should be forced out of office, and calculated to lead to a strike.

Mr David Osiani is the immediate former chairman of the Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) and not an administrator.

The three were arrested following chaos that rocked the institution’s main campus since Friday evening as students protested a move by the administration to dissolve the union. The students had earlier held elections for the union officials.

Osiani was defending his seat, but a row erupted over the elections’ outcome. The university administration then dissolved the union, and appointed a caretaker committee.

Students claimed the elections had been rigged to retain candidates favoured by the administration.

The three students were arrested outside Chester House in Nairobi, where they had gone to address a news conference. They denied the charges and were released on a Sh30,000 cash bail each, until July 7.

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