On February 27, 2018, police reportedly used violent force in responding to student unrest at a protest at Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST), which reportedly included an apparently targeted killing of Evans Njoroge, a student at MUST and Secretary General of the Students’ Council.
The February 27 protest was reportedly part of an ongoing movement denouncing a fee increase by the MUST administration. Several earlier protests connected to the movement, which began at the beginning of the academic year, reportedly turned violent; by February 1, 2018, university officials had closed the campus due to growing unrest. Mr. Njoroge appeared to have played a prominent role in the student movement, including by addressing the media on several occasions.
Media sources indicate that after students began protesting, police officers arrived on the scene to disperse them. At least two officers reportedly pursued student protesters attempting to flee, including Mr. Njoroge. According to one witness, two officers entered her home and asked for the students’ whereabouts. The officer reportedly spotted Mr. Njoroge hiding under a tree and shot at him as he attempted to escape. Sources indicate that the officer returned to his vehicle, changed into civilian clothing and left the scene.
Politicians and other public figures have condemned the apparently targeted killing of Mr. Njoroge and demanded the arrest of the police officer. An autopsy report has revealed that Mr. Njoroge was shot in the back of the head at close range.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force by police, including the apparently targeted killing of a student. 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 the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on such rights and democratic society generally. State and university authorities have a responsibility to ensure the security of academic communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable.