The once glorified student leadership is a pale shadow of its former mighty self. Sadly to accept, the platform is now a business venture or simply an avenue for getting “known”. Pertinent student issues like accommodation, suspensions, expulsions, missing and delayed student results, HELB loans and students accommodation have somehow crept out of the grasp of student leaders; who find themselves somehow unable to represent this concerns, either out of shameless fear or there being no direct financial gain out of addressing them.
Former student leaders Ndege Serikal, Babu Owino and Ken Mulu addressing student concerns at the famous Hall 9, UoN.
Early this year, March 24, 2017, the University of Nairobi honoured, with a memorial lecture, former slain activists Oscar King’ara and GPO Oulu who had met their death 8 years earlier, 5th March 2009, along the country’s most secure road, State House road, passing through UoN’s Mamlaka hostels.
University of Nairobi students engaging rioting policemen.
On that fateful Friday evening, in King’ara’s white mercedes that had been moving slow due to the evening traffic, seemingly organized vehicles blocked their way and gunmen in black emerged and shot the duo at close fatal range before fleeing. Comrades reportedly heard the gunshots in the quiet evening and rushed to the scene.
A comrade Isaac Ochieng Ochieng, a two time SONU clerk and Head of Secretariat narrates,
I carried Oulu’s lifeless body to the UoN’s staff clinic before a lady doctor pronounced him dead on arrival.*
The police were later to be on my trail in the pretence that I should go record a statement but we all knew they thought I was a witness and they wanted to silence me. I did not go
Ochieng Ochieng, Ndege Serikal and other leaders were to lead demonstrations to protest the death of their colleague in the struggle.
The students-police battle that followed the killing
John Paul (GPO) had been a former vice chairman of SONU and was expelled before meeting his death in the line of activism and his death, within the University of Nairobi’s environment did not go well down with comrades. Student moved their bodies into Mamlaka hostels and with stones and courage battled armed police for days. A battle that caused the death of yet another student, in the hands of the police.
But why the disruption of learning and risks for GPO who had ceased being a student?
GPO had been a selfless and courageous comrade whose fight against students arbitrary suspension and expulsion led to his own expulsion which refusing to let go, thrust him into national activism.
Selflessness; With his partner Oscar (who they met death with) they had documented over 6,000 forced disappearances and 1700 extra-judicial police killings. Not minding that he (GPO) was a luo and the most affected in this case were the Kikuyu, (police insisting they were Mungiki followers). His fight extended beyond tribe and caste as he would write,
My humble backgrounds and hardship experiences had played a significant role in shaping my values and desires for a better life to all.
Courage; Not that prior to his expulsion, he did not receive warnings. Not that prior to his death he did not receive threats and he didn’t know the risks, he did know that the powers that be could get him. But still chose to give his life for the betterment of the society, which in the end took it.
“My interest is to live for a purpose. To bring smiles to the face of this world and to live beyond self. I value those who live and think beyond themselves. as he would coin it in his blog…”
Years later, his story is still told. His selflessness and courage admired and student leadership misses and maybe waits for people like him.
Long-time UoN student leader, Ndege Serikal advises,
“The blood and lives of so many student leaders have been lost in the struggle for a better student environment and a better society. Present day student leaders must resist the temptation to let all this drain to waste.
Psychiatrist and UoN alumnus Dr. Chitayi Murabula challenges,
“We are celebrating those who voluntarily dared take risks in defense of people they hardly knew. Can we follow their footsteps?”
Can we ?
By Bishop Pirate Snr Esq
Loyal Citizen and Follower of Events
Bishop Ndege Serikal
Dr. Chitayi Murabula