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: November 11, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 11, 2019, police used violent force against students protesting at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

JKUAT students reportedly gathered on and around campus to hold a protest over rising insecurity, including a recent alleged violent robbery on campus that resulted in the death of at least one student. The students blocked a nearby highway, causing significant traffic disruptions. Police reportedly responded with force, including indiscriminate beatings and tear gas, sparking clashes with students on and off campus. One student, who claimed he was not involved in the protest, was seen in a video being violently beaten by four police officers. The student was taken into custody and reportedly subjected to further beatings before being released later that night. Officers involved in the beating were reportedly suspended after video of the incident circulated over social media.

JKUAT closed indefinitely following the incident. As of this report, it is unclear whether JKUAT has reopened.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force and detentions to restrict nonviolent student expression — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kenya is a party. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain safety and order, they also have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against peaceful expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.