Few years back, the mention of the term “university students” was
associated with fights, riots, stone throwing all in utter rebellion to
government unpopular moves.
Student activism, which was in vogue especially in the ‘80s, would give the discordant regime insomnia and extreme paranoia. The students were
pro-active in campaigning for their rights and those of their fellow
countrymen, in spite of the unsympathetic climate that prevailed.
Student leaders could get arrested, beaten up, jailed at the infamous Nyayo house or murdered in cold blood.
Student leaders were powerful figures in the country then. The government of the day kept vigil of student activism to the extent of placing spies in major universities.
Former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Moi knew the student leaders by name, in all the major campuses especially the University of Nairobi. Comrades, as they would popularly refer to each other would proceed without phobia of subjugation or intimidation, to engage the government on unpopular moves. Student activism was a public watchdog.
In 1992, when the fight for multiparty democracy was at its peak,
university students joined notable ‘second liberation’ figures such as
Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Paul Muite, Raila Odinga among others. The struggle successfully saw the repeal of the famous Section 2A of the
constitution that brought in a new era of multiparty democracy.
Thanks to student activism of the 80’s and 90’s, a crop of vibrant leaders
emerged. The likes of James Orengo, Miguna Miguna, Ababu Namwamba , Chief Justice Willy Mutunga are just but a few.
Fast forward to the 21st century, Student activism took a different turn.
University voices in national discourses are rare .The only time student
leaders are heard of is when a varsity strike occurs and the media gets
them an interview as part of the evening news.
Pointing out the vacuum left in the country by the dwindling student activism in governance matters, Chief Justice willy Mutunga was quoted in the papers in 2012 urging varsity students to bring back the great debates and student activism witnessed in the past decades.
academic justice. A time has come to re write history, going fourth in the
spirit of transformation and declaring the re birth of COMRADES POWER.