Ethnic politics is slowly rearing its ugly head in institutions of higher learning, with Moi University being the latest casualty, after two rival groups clashed over the forthcoming student elections.
This led to the closure of the institution on Monday evening. The confrontation threatened to get out of hand, when the students started destroying property.
The students engaged the police in running battles for many hours after which the university was shut.
According to the outgoing Moi University Student Organisation chairman, Mr Geoffrey Omondi, the problem started when a candidate who had been nominated for the academics docket opted for the entertainment position at the last minute.
This sparked some controversy between members of two ethnic groups.
They hurled stones at each other, burnt campaign banners and broke windowpanes.
The elections were set for Friday.
“Since the campaigns started, tension has been building at the university. The campaigns have been taking an ethnic dimension. We are holding meetings with the university management to reconcile the warring sides,” said Mr Omondi.
“To stop the violence, the management closed the university indefinitely. The senate will meet on Wednesday to decide the next course of action,” he said.
Mr Omondi described the confrontations portrayed students as tribal, instead of being peace ambassadors.
“The students who fought might work in the same offices when they complete their studies. In fact, more than 90 per cent of students are politically inactive,” Mr Omondi told the Nation.
A letter closing the university was signed by Vice-Chancellor Richard Mibey.
Student Electoral Commission Chairman Salim Cheserem said: “We held a meeting with the dean of students and even agreed with the candidates on the new changes. I blame the clashes on tribalism and some outgoing student leaders who are reluctant to vacate office.”
PROTESTED AGAINST DECISION
Another commissioner, Mr Teretoi Ketente, told the Nation that it was a Luo-Kalenjin duel.
“There were only two candidates for the entertainment post, and both are Kalenjins. When one candidate who is a Luo switched from academics to the entertainment docket, the Kalenjins protested fearing they would lose the seat,” said Mr Ketente.
Cord’s Uasin-Gishu County Chairman Kipkorir arap Menjo said: “Some politicians are inciting students along ethnic and political lines for selfish gain.”