Brutality on JKUAT students indictment of police

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 07:37 |
University students on strike. Photo/File
Jkuat students protest over increased cases of insecurity around Juja town. PD/ MATHEW NDUNG’U

By Emmanuel MATANO

When parents send children to the university, or any other institution of learning, they expect them to be schooled, nurtured and protected from any form of harm. 

The worst news a parent can, therefore, expect is that of death or injury of their children while in such an environment. But this has been happening at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) with little or no action.

In the past one year, at least four students have been killed in attacks by criminals around the university. In May, last year, Tim Sidney Sitati, a second-year Bachelor of Journalism student was stabbed to death near one of the university gates. Two months later in July, fourth year student Tabitha Kiiti was strangled at the university. In February, a first year student, Tabitha Muthoni, was stabbed to death at Highpoint area in Juja. And on Monday, yet another was found dead in the same area.

These and other incidents, including injuries of students and loss of property, have been reported to relevant authorities. However, what follows such reports are intensified police patrols, which cease soon after signs of relative calm.

This insecurity informed JKUAT students’ decision to hold peaceful demonstrations on Monday. 

It is unfortunate that what ought to have been peaceful demo turned out a running battle between students and police officers—throwing of stones and lobbying of teargas canisters. That some students participating in the protest also chose to violate rules of peaceful demonstration and went on a looting spree and destruction of property is unacceptable.

But what is regrettable is the move by some police officers to use excessive force on striking students.  Indeed, Interior minister Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, just like the rest of the nation, noted that officers used excessive force.

Kenyans, more so JKUAT students and their parents, are watching to see action promised by Matiang’i and Mutyambai against officers who went against their training to ensure security, law and order and instead resorted to hooliganism. 

Reports that police officers conspired with residents armed with stones, machetes and other crude weapons to counter unarmed picketing students are unfortunate.

Police officers should know better to uphold integrity and remain true to their calling and duty. Their Monday action could easily lend credence to claims that they collude with goons to perpetuate insecurity in JKUAT environs.

For instance, recently, police recovered property worth millions of shillings in Juja, including laptops, gas cylinders, smartphones and music systems believed to have been stolen from students, who may have left with injuries. Sadly, all this happened right under the nose of a police station, located metres away from the university’s main gate.

The students’ message may have been disrupted in the Monday protests, but all they are asking for is security assurance. Nothing more! They want to see tangible measures to deal with this issue that has remained a worry to them, their parents and the larger community for quite some time now. 

Police, the university and other stakeholders must do things differently. Temporary and erratic patrols have proved not to work.

Stakeholders should consider lasting solutions, such as community policing and fostering good working relationship between residents and students, among others.

—The writer is a mass communication student at JKUAT

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