SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 14, 2013

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Nairobi

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Engineering student Edward Kubai was shot and killed amidst violent protests at the University of Nairobi, which began on December 14, 2013 and led to the closure of the university through the Christmas holidays.
The protests erupted after another engineering student, Erastus Abok, was found dead in police custody.  According to police, Abok had been arrested in connection with an attempted act of arson, and committed suicide in his cell.  Student protesters disputed this account, suggesting that the police were at fault for Abok’s death, and demanding further investigation. The incident set of violent protests by a group of students, who, in some instances reportedly stoned passing cars and robbed drivers.  Police intervened, using teargas as well as live ammunition against the student protesters, killing Kubai and injuring another student.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about on-campus violence and the apparent use of disproportionate force by police.  While students have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence or the destruction of property; on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Student violence against persons or property creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State and university authorities, while they have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, that respect peaceful expression, and that minimize the risk of physical injury. Use of excessive force in response to campus unrest unnecessarily increases risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.