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: January 13, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Egerton University

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 13, 2020, students and police reportedly clashed violently during a protest on the Egerton University campus.

Reports indicate that Egerton University was closed for a period of time following reported clashes between police and student protesters on December 4, 2019. Following the alleged clashes, university administrators fined a number of students they alleged carried out violent activities 17,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $170 US Dollars) to pay for damages to campus property.

By January 2020, the university began resuming some academic activities. Those students who had been fined based on accusations of damaging campus property on December 4 were reportedly required to pay their fines or sign a document stating that they would pay them in full at a later date in order to enter campus.

On January 12 and 13, a group of students demanding that the campus officials allow their entry without paying the fines protested outside the university. The protest became violent when some students reportedly attempted to force their way past a security checkpoint set up at the university’s main entrance, while others threw stones at nearby police officers and blocked roads. Police officers in turn fired live ammunition in the air and threw tear gas canisters at protesting students.

Several media sources indicate that at least ten student demonstrators were arrested by police; police have denied this. At least one journalist covering the protests was reportedly beaten by police and had his phone confiscated.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a student protest. While students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise those rights peacefully and responsibly. State authorities likewise have a responsibility to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.