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University Students' Union Is Outlawed

By Wahome Thuku, The Nation (Nairobi), 10 January 2001

Nairobi - The University of Nairobi has disbanded the Students Organisation of Nairobi University (SONU).

This is the second public university to outlaw a students union.

Kenyatta University Students Association was banned last October, sparking student riots and destruction of university property.

University of Nairobi students have now been instructed to channel their grievances through their respective colleges.

Vice-Chancellor Francis Gichaga said in a circular to students that the decision to suspend the Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) was reached during senate and council meetings last week.

"The senate and the council evaluated disciplinary regulations and the structure of student leadership," he said. But Sonu Secretary-General George Omondi said the move was unprocedural.

Speaking to the Nation at the university's main campus yesterday, Mr. Omondi and four other Sonu officials said the organisation was a students' representative forum not established by a university statute.

"The administration cannot disband what it has not legally established; it can only terminate its support to the organisation," they said.

Sonu was revived in 1998 after many years of being outlawed.

The institution was closed for four months, after which 80 students were suspended and some expelled.

Upon reopening last week, students were ordered to pay fines ranging from Sh1,000 to Sh10,000 for the damage.

At least 230 students have been expelled or suspended from the six State universities since late last year.

The University of Nairobi was reopened on Monday after a three-month closure, following student protests over parallel degree programmes.

Eighteen students implicated in the riots have been expelled, 24 suspended for up to three years and 16 for two years each.

The university said individual students could appeal against the action.

Yesterday, however, Sonu officials, who are among those suspended, said they had not received suspension letters and could not, therefore, appeal.

Mr. Omondi said the decision to suspend the group was contrary to university regulations since the students were not represented.

He said student leaders would meet to decide the next course of action.

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