Allegations circulating online that Meru National Polytechnic students stole and disappeared with a police van during riots last Monday, March 9, are false, Meru County Police Commander, Patrick Lumumba, says.
A 29-second video clip showing youthful people hopping onto a moving police van that has its siren blazing, has been circulating on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter with reports online suggesting that the subjects in the video were students who forcefully seized control of the police vehicle.
“Meru Polytechnic students went on strike. They took control of a police vehicle and drove off in it,” read one of the social media captions to the now-widely shared video clip.
Meru County Police Commander Patrick Lumumba has, however, refuted the allegations, saying the people caught on tape hopping onto the police van were locals who had joined anti-riot officers to restore normalcy at Meru Polytechnic, which is located 10Kms from Meru Town and less than 5Kms from Makutano centre.
The 10, 000-plus learners had taken to the streets to protest after one of their colleagues was killed on Sunday night in unclear circumstances.
“The people caught on tape hopping onto the police van were Makutano residents who had volunteered to help police restore normalcy at the town centre after students from Meru National Polytechnic took to the trading centre to cause destruction,” Lumumba told K24 Digital on Wednesday, March 11.
Meru National Polytechnic was on Monday, March 9, closed indefinitely following the students’ unrest, the institution’s principal, Geoffrey Rukunja, told K24 Digital.
Several shops in Makutano area were burnt, businesses vandalised and transport on the Meru-Nanyuki highway paralysed following the Monday riots.
The students barricaded the Meru-Nanyuki and Meru-Maua roads with bonfires from 8am before looting and burning down shops at the location where their colleague’s body was found.
Traders at the busy Makutano centre claim goods, including gas cylinders, and business premises worth millions of shillings were destroyed during the rampage.
Due to the high population of learners at the polytechnic, police were overwhelmed.
Meru National Polytechnic students’ union deputy president, Kimani Wachira, said their colleague was robbed before he was killed.
Wachira said they had reported several cases of muggings and insecurity in the area, but no concrete action was taken, thus necessitating the strike.
“Many students have been attacked near Ghetto street and the police have been ignoring our reports. The student murdered on Sunday was walking to school when he met his killers. We are now demanding the CCTV footage from a nearby hotel to identify the attackers,” said Wachira.
Besides police, the students pointed an accusing finger at boda boda riders in Makutano, claiming the operators have been mugging them when transporting the learners to and from college.
At around 3pm, the polytechnic’s management, led by principal Geoffrey Rukunja, ordered the university shut, and the learners were given 30 minutes to vacate the institution.
“Only those who are writing their Kenya National Examinations Council papers will be allowed back to continue with the tests,” said Principal Geoffrey Rukunja.