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: July 19, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Meru National Polytechnic

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 19, 2021, police clashed with Meru National Polytechnic students protesting the alleged rigging of student elections.

Students gathered near the campus gates to protest irregularities in a student election which had occurred the previous week in order to favor a particular candidate. Speaking to the press, student Boniface Kirimi, who ran for the student presidential position, said that the administration conducted the election digitally instead of in-person, increasing the potential for manipulated election results.

According to reports, students eventually moved the protest to the street, where they were met by police, who fired tear gas in order to disperse the protesters and arrested an unknown number of them. Amid the protest, the university administration sent communications that all students would have thirty minutes to vacate the campus and that the university would be closing indefinitely. It is unclear whether the students who were arrested were formally charged.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a student protest. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and security, they also have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate to the situation, do not endanger protesters, and are not undertaken to restrict nonviolent expressive activity. Students likewise have a responsibility to carry out expressive activities peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of violent force during protests undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).