Reporters Beaten During Riots At University
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Police on Sunday beat and detained four Western journalists covering riots in which paramilitary forces shot tear gas at demonstrators protesting the arrests of five student leaders.
Hundreds of students went on a rampage after five newly elected leaders of the university’s student organization were arrested around midnight Saturday at gunpoint, students said.
Riot troops moved in Sunday morning after students began stoning cars on the capital’s main Uhuru Highway and University Way, which border the main campus of the University of Nairobi.
The students scattered in three directions but later regrouped at their dormitories. Hundreds of police and troops from the paramilitary General Services Unit surrounded them and bombarded them with tear gas for about two hours.
Of the reporters, Lindsey Hilsum, 29, of the British Broadcasting Corp., and Patrick Moser, 30, of United Press International, were the most seriously hurt and went to hospital for checkups after the incident.
Doctors at Nairobi Hospital said Ms. Hilsum, who was beaten over the back, sustained severe bruises, and that Moser suffered a broken nose and a possibly perforated ear drum.
Peer Meinert, 36, of the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and Didrikke Schanche, 31, of The Associated Press, also were hit with police batons, kicked, punched and slapped. They were not seriously hurt.
Moser, Meinert and Ms. Schanche were watching the disturbance from a dormitory rooftop. They were directed to the dormitory after identifying themselves to riot police, but were ordered down after watching scores of yelling riot troops chase about 50 students.
They again identified themselves as journalists, but were forced into a police vehicle as paramilitary police kicked, slapped and punched them and beat them with batons.
A policeman slammed a rifle butt into the back of Moser’s head and punched him repeatedly in the face and ears.
Ms. Hilsum, who was on campus interviewing students, was arrested after diving under a bush to get out of the way of charging riot troops.
She said she was found by three or four police who hit her over the back with batons.
″One beat me so hard his baton broke,″ she said.
The reporters were released about three hours later after being briefly jailed and questioned at Nairobi’s Central Police Station. A police officer who refused to give his name told the reporters they had been trespassing and should not have been at the riot scene.
Rocks, broken bottles and tear gas canisters littered the campus. It was not known Sunday evening whether police managed to subdue the students.
It was also not immediately known how many students were arrested or injured.
A man answering the phone at the university said only the vice chancellor could speak to the news media and he was not available.
Disturbances are not uncommon at the university, which has about 5,000 students. But Sunday’s riot was among the worst since the university was closed for a year following an August 1982 attempted coup against President Daniel Arap Moi by disgruntled junior air force officers.
Another of this East African nation’s universities, Kenyatta University, was closed for two months last year after a week of unrest including rock- throwing incidents and a campus fire.