A dispute is brewing between the administration of Chuka University, students and bar owners in Ndagani market over influx of clubs and drugs near the institution.
The university students, pupils from surrounding schools and churches have planned a demonstration on Friday against drug peddlers around the market and to demand the closure of all the bars.
The bar owners have expressed fear of destruction of their businesses by the students and other criminals who are likely to take advantage of the protest to steal.
Addressing journalists at the market on Thursday, the business people warned that they will not allow students to invade their businesses.
“We are ready to protect our businesses in case of invasion by the students or other hired goons and we have written to police asking for protection,” said Tharaka-Nithi County Bar Owners Association Chairman Nicholas Mutua.
Mr Mutua added that they were ready to support the students in the fight against illegal drugs but would not allow their businesses to be destroyed in the process.
He accused the university's administration of using the students to fight them, arguing that Vice Chancellor Erastus Njoka vowed to clear all bars within the university's vicinity.
Contacted by the Nation, Prof Njoka denied the allegations, but confirmed that he was aware of the peaceful demonstration organised by the students and other education stakeholders. “This should not be viewed as purely a university affair, but the entire community which is disappointed with increased drug abuse by the students,” said Prof Njoka.
He said the drug barons and bar owners are targeting students to make money at the expense of their education and health.
Mr Kelvin Ng'ang'a said the business community has for the past 10 years coexisted with the students was sure that someone with ulterior motive was using the students to destroy their businesses.
Student leader Livan Njeru maintained they do not want any bar near the university and affirmed that they will hold peaceful demonstrations. “Many of our colleagues have wasted all their four years in the bars and other drug dens,” said Mr Njeru.
Chuka/Igambang’ombe police boss Benson Makumbi confirmed receiving a request letter from the student leadership about the protest, but noted that they needed a confirmation that it will be peaceful.
“Kenyans have a constitutional right to hold demonstrations, but they must be peaceful,” said Mr Makumbi.