Demonstration held by the Green Belt Movement and the National Council of Churches at the Karura Forest in Nairobi on 31 January 1999; whether university students attended; treatment of demonstrators by police and those arrested and detained [KEN36048.E]

A 3 February 1999 South Bend Tribune report states that three opposition parliamentarians, James Orengo, David Menje and Njehu Gatabaki, and Green Belt Movement "activist" John Makanga were arrested on 2 February 1999 after President Daniel Arap Moi criticized protesters who "clashed with riot police, looted and destroyed property" during three consecutive days of demonstrations held on 30-31 January and 1 February 1999 to protest "the construction of expensive homes at the state-owned Karura Forest", near Nairobi. All pleaded not guilty and were released on $1,650 US $ bail each.

A 31 January 1999 CNN report accounts for the events that took place in the Karuna forest, near Nairobi, on Sunday, 31 January 1999.

Riot police fired tear gas and used wooden clubs Sunday to beat back students protesting housing construction in one of the few remaining indigenous forests in Kenya.
Students from the University of Nairobi threw stones at police after the officers tried to reopen the main trans-Africa highway through central Nairobi, which the protesters had blocked with rocks, tree trunks and burning tires. Traffic lights near the barricade and the windshields of some vehicles were smashed.
The estimated 300 students said they were protesting the controversial sale of land in Karura Forest, near Nairobi, and the arrest of an unknown number of other student protesters on Saturday. They said they would not sit for exams scheduled for Monday unless their demands were met.
After six hours of skirmishes, most of the students returned to their dormitories, although a small group remained.
Student sources said scores of demonstrators had sustained minor injuries in the confrontation, but there were no reports of serious injuries or arrests at the demonstration, or at two smaller ones held at university campuses outside the Kenyan capital.

The report also states that a similar demonstration involving 2,000 students took place the day before in the same area. Although students were given permission to "enter the site and plant trees peacefully," about 400 students decided to force their way in the forest, using a tractor to tear down the gates at the entrance; about 30 students were beaten by police during the skirmishes (ibid.).

A 31 January 1999 AFP report states that police "baton-charged and tear-gassed hundreds of students" on Saturday 30 January 1999 as they were attempting to enter the Karura forest to plant trees and to protest the infringement of real estate development in the area. The report also mentions that on 31 January 1999 policemen armed with truncheons charged students of the University of Nairobi who were blocking two major city highways and who "vandalized a petrol station and broke the glass windows of buildings." According to the report, 1,000 hectares of the Karura forest had been "quietly" cleared since the beginning of 1999.

A 2 February 1999 report in the Nairobi-based The Nation states that the University of Nairobi was shut for an indefinite period after students battled with police on 1 February 1999, in the third day of rioting over the allocation of land of the Karura forest to private developers. According to the report,

The students took to the streets after 1 p.m., lighting bonfires and erecting barriers - using uprooted signposts - along State House Road which cuts through their halls of residence.
They also immobilized the cars of more than 20 of their lecturers and professors, by deflating their tires...
Scores of students from both the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University were injured following protracted street fighting with the police which lasted the whole afternoon.
At the height of the violence, one policeman was waylaid by the students and beaten senseless...
Several offices and businesses on the multi-storey Anniversary Toweres, Posta Sacco Plaza, Ambank House and View Park Towers closed early as windows were smashed by the flying missiles.

No further information on the treatment of demonstrators by the police during and after the demonstrations could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 31 January 1999. "Students Clash with Police in Nairobi for Second Day." (NEXIS)

CNN. 31 January 1999. "Kenya Students Renew Battle to Save Forest Land." [Accessed 18 Jan. 2001]

The Nation [Nairobi]. 2 February 1999. "Kenya: Nairobi University Closed After Fresh Riots." (Africa News/NEXIS)

South Bend Tribune [South Bend, Indiana]. 3 February 1999. "Crusade to Save Forests Ends up in Courtroom." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Internet sources including:

Amnesty International. Search facility

Human Rights Watch (HRW). Search facility

Relief Web. Search facility

World News Connection (WNC)

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