BY JOHN MUNORU
TORONTO - Workers and students in Kenya have organized mass protests in recent months against government education cutbacks and plans to expel university students who cannot pay school fees. They demanded that the dictatorial regime of Daniel arap Moi agree to a list of reforms including freedom of speech and association, and establishing an independent commission to oversee upcoming elections, as they chanted "Moi must go! Moi must go!"
On July 7, thousands marched to the center of Nairobi demanding the government reform electoral and other oppressive laws. In the outskirts of the city, youth set up roadblocks and street barricades. Similar rallies and protests were held in other major cities.
The Moi regime responded with brutal violence using riot police and elite paramilitary General Service Unit cops, who fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds of ammunition to break up rallies. Many protesters were severely beaten, and at least 14 people were killed. In Thika township, 20 kilometers from Nairobi, cops attacked a secondhand clothes market injuring several people. The police also stormed the Anglican All Saints Cathedral hurling tear gas, breaking furniture, and savagely beating about 100 demonstrators.
The cops arrested about 155 people throughout the country and charged them with various offenses, provoking more protests. On July 9 students at the University of Nairobi rallied against the police violence. The Moi government responded by closing the university.
Witnesses said scores of students were injured at the campus as heavily armed riot police moved in to enforce the closing, breaking down doors, looting, and vandalizing student rooms.
On July 14 thousands of students protested at the Kenya Polytechnic and took to the streets to protest the killing of two students at the University of Nairobi by the police a week earlier. They blocked one street for hours with blazing barricades and fought back tear gas and rubber bullets with slingshots and rocks.
In February the government closed the university of Nairobi after students protested the death of one of their leaders in an explosion blamed on the police. This marked the turning point in recent student politics. "Before Muruli's [the student leader] death, many students were saying, `Let's just finish exams and get on with it.' Now they are saying : `This is unacceptable. We have to fight,'" Vivienne, a leader of a women's group on the campus told the Christian Science Monitor.
The deepening economic crisis in Kenya has been exacerbated by the regime's implementation of austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the last three years.
Early in 1991, the IMF pressed the Moi regime to carry out massive privatization, cut government funding for education and health care, lay off public employees, open Kenyan market for imperialist goods, devalue the Kenyan shilling, and remove food subsidies. The imperialist financial institution suspended its loan program with the Kenyan government August 1 claiming the regime was not doing enough to combat corruption and improve economic management.
Fearing protests might rock his regime, Moi avoided imposing these measures for a few months arguing they were "dictatorial and suicidal." Later he implemented them all with devastating consequences to the Kenyan workers and youth. Tuition fees and medical costs have gone up beyond the means of majority of Kenyans.
Annual incomes in Kenya have stagnated at $280. Divisions
between rich and poor is greater in Kenya than any other
country in the World except for Brazil. The top 10 percent
of the population controls almost half of all Kenyan wealth.
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