Heed Kenya's Students

Fifteen years ago dozens of students and academics, perceived by Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi to be troublemakers, were expelled from the country's five public universities. The universities were accused of being at the center of antigovernment conspiracies.

The government still sees trouble. On Feb. 23, students from Nairobi University's Kikuyu campus took to the streets after learning that student activist Solomon Muruli had died from an explosion in his room. The students, whose protests are continuing, blame the government and police.

Mr. Muruli was well known to police. Last November he was kidnapped and tortured; he later said officers were responsible. Two months before his death, police killed three students at Kenyatta and Egerton Universities.

Student protests revolve around issues such as fees and the quality of university administration. But the way their protests are dealt with goes to a much larger issue - how the government continues to suppress opposition and silence dissent. Though President Moi fired the police commissioner after the Kenyatta and Egerton incidents, it was not enough.

While Moi is seeking reelection this year, opposition groups in Kenya are pushing for constitutional reforms. The US and others should be equally vigilant about pressuring the government to honor its international commitment to respect human rights. The recent student killings underscore how important that commitment is and how neglected it has been.

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