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: September 26, 2017

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Nairobi

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 26, 2017, police officers reportedly used violent force against students in response to a protest at the University of Nairobi. The clashes resulted in the death of Tom Wanjohi, a student at the university, as well as injuries to at least 26 students.

Reports indicate that a large number of students at the university demonstrated on campus to demand the release of a former university student leader who had been arrested for allegedly insulting President Uhuru Kenyatta. olice officers on the scene reportedly responded by using batons to disperse the students.  In addition, some officers allegedly entered student residence halls and classrooms, where they used violent force against students who were not involved in the protest; at least one report indicates that the officers demanded money from the students in order to leave. Mr. Wanjohi was in a classroom when police reportedly beat him until he lost consciousness; he died on October 2.

As a result of the clashes, 26 students were injured and 18 students were later suspended from the university in connection with the demonstration. On October 3, university officials closed the campus indefinitely due to “the deteriorating security situation,” ordering the students to vacate campus.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about on-campus violence and the apparent use of excessive force by police. While authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect institutional autonomy, academic freedom, and other applicable human rights standards. Use of excessive force in response to campus unrest unnecessarily increases risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.