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: March 09, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Nairobi

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 9, 2020, students violently clashed with police and reportedly set fire to a dormitory at the University of Nairobi (UoN) during a protest over the death of a student.

The clashes follow a March 4 incident in which a security guard stationed at a UoN student dormitory reportedly arrested Elisha Otieno Odeng, a UoN student who had been suspended. Police and eyewitnesses allege that security guards beat Odeng and left him in a park, where he was later found and rushed to a hospital. He died from his injuries; an autopsy subsequently reflected that the cause of death was blunt force to the head and strangulation. The reasons for the arrest remain unclear as of this report.

On March 9, students protested the death of Odeng and brutality by security guards, during which some students reportedly set fire to an abandoned student dormitory. Over various parts of UoN’s campus and on roads outside of campus, police reportedly clashed with students. The circumstances of the clashes are unclear as of this report.

On March 11, police arrested Spencer Kipkorir Kosgey, a security guard, suspected of the murder of Odeng.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus protest and the targeted destruction of campus property. University authorities, students, and campus security have a responsibility to maintain a safe university space. While students have rights to freedom of expression and assembly, they have a responsibility to exercise such rights peacefully and responsibly; likewise, university authorities must take measures to maintain a safe campus space and refraining from responding disproportionately to student protests and working to deescalate potentially volatile situations. Violence on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.