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Leader in terse warning over reforms

The Nation (Nairobi), 31 January 2000

Nairobi - Outspoken Cabinet Minister Shariff Nassir yesterday warned students planning to disrupt the Parliamentary Select Committee on the constitutional review -- you do so at your own risk.

The students would live to regret any attempt to stop the committee from doing its work, Mr. Nassir said.

He was one of a number of people who spoke out in protest at threats made by students at a meeting on Saturday to interfere with the Parliamentary Select Committee's work.

Others included a Pentecostal pastor, a branch of the National Development Party, and a rival group of students at Nairobi University; seen by many as a hotbed of protests against the committee's work.

Minister Nassir told the students planning to disrupt the committee's meetings not to allow themselves to be used by people who, he said, were anarchists bent on causing bloodshed in Kenya.

The Mvita MP said those planning the disruption should direct their activities far away from Parliament, or else they would meet the full force of the law.

"Parliament is a supreme body where all Kenyans, regardless of which province they come from or party they belong to are represented, and should therefore be respected by all," he said.

The minister said that some people had made the habit of taking to streets every time their views differed with those of others, and were targeting mainly the unemployed youth to advance their undemocratic tendencies.

Mr. Nassir was reacting to yesterday's reports that a lobby group comprising mainly students was planning to disrupt the committee.

The group, which said it supported the parallel faiths-led constitutional review met on Saturday at Kamukunji ground, Nairobi, and resolved that in addition to disrupting the committee, it would also embarrass the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives currently in the country.

The group criticised the chairman of the committee, Mr. Raila Odinga, and MPs Kihika Kimani and Chege Mbitiru for siding with the committee.

Mr. Nassir said: "They can play with members of the select committee in their individual capacity but they will not be allowed to tamper with Parliament, which is the supreme law-making body in the country.

Meanwhile, a Protestant pastor accused Ugenya MP James Orengo and Saba Saba Asili activist Ngengi Muigai of paying the students to riot and cause mayhem in the city.

The Rev Steven Mburu of Bahati's African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa, AIPCA, said the two leaders and others he refused to name had given the students money so they could cause chaos.

He was addressing journalists after delivering a sermon at the church.

"This signifies that our leaders have lost dignity, if they can stoop this low. The lot that believes in hooliganism should be done away with."

He said university authorities had failed to run the institution because they could no longer control their students.

"The university should be closed down because the students are no longer learning, but have become weapons of war to be hired," he said.

The chairman of the Graduate Mobilisation Centre, which helps graduates to find jobs, Mr. Kaihia Mwangi, also accused politicians of inciting the students.

He said they should re-examine their political motives which he said were not for the common good of Kenyans.

"Ninety-five per cent of university students know nothing about the constitution review process and it is a pity that that they should suffer because of something that they do not understand," he said.

Mr. Mwangi, who also named Mr. Orengo as one of the politicians inciting students, asked the MPs' to keep away and let the students pursue their educational goals.

The National Development Party's Uasin Gishu branch warned students not to provoke violence. y Led by the Eldoret South treasurer, Mr. Otieno Omollo, they said the threats by the youth lobby to disrupt the proceedings of the PSC would not be taken lightly.

"We are now going to protect the PSC in all ways possible and the young people should not cry foul when we react," Mr. Omollo said.

A student faction supporting the PSC said it would beat up any of their rivals who disrupt the meetings.

The students' organisation of Nairobi University union vice- chairman Robert Kipkemboi said the pro-Ufungamano initiative should not meddle in the affairs of the committee "the same way we did not interfere with their Kamkunji meeting."

He added: "Calls to block aid are misguided and ill-intentioned, considering that the majority of Kenyans are languishing in poverty".

He also said it was wrong for young people to call for violent change because it would lead to anarchy and bloodshed.

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