University of Nairobi (UoN) Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama, has apologised over what has been termed as an insensitive memo to students, which appeared to squarely put blame on female learners over rape ordeals that have been reported to the institution’s security department.
In a memo to UoN students dated Monday, February 24, whose undersigned is the Acting director of security and safety services, Major (retired) Simon K. Cherutich, female learners were advised to minimise “recklessness” to avoid possible rape ordeals.
Some of the said-reckless habits include: walking alone when it is dark, attending social functions with no clear agenda, daring to walk in dark spots near the university premises when one is drunk, among others.
“In the recent past, cases of female students being robbed of their valuables, and in worst cases, raped by their assailants in the city and its environs, have been reported to this department. The common ‘black spots’ have been found to be around University Way area next to KEMU building/Cooperative Bank, St. Paul’s Chapel and University Way roundabout area on Nyerere Road adjacent to Central Park,” read a part of the memo.
“In all the three incidences reported since last year, a clear case of recklessness on the part of our female students can be drawn. In one of the incidences, a female student entertained herself in various joints in the city and decided to walk all alone drunk from the city centre to the hostels at SWA. Unfortunately, she met her assailants next to KEMU building at around 5am, where her bag was snatched and she was raped in turns by three men,” said the director of security and safety services at the UoN.
The choice of words used in the memo irked Twitter users, who took to the micro-blogging site to call out the university for putting blame on rape victims, who need nothing but psychosocial support following the traumatising ordeals that they were subjected to.
Dr. Wamocho, BVM, whose Twitter handle is @SeMalemo, was one of the users who expressed their disapproval of the university’s statement in relation to number of rape cases reported to the security department.
“This is the most disappointing memo I’ve ever read in my entire life! A woman is raped, gang raped, and the first thing, the first damn thing is to blame the victim! This should not be from ‘a world class university’! @uonbi,” posted Wamocho.
Another user, whose Twitter handle is @the_warm_fruit, said: “@vcuonbi this cannot be how an entire university responds to reports of rape. The cause of rape is rapists not “reckless behaviour.” I’m so sorry to the woman this happened to. Someone needs to be fired ASAP.”
@Cardi_O_Logist said: “So, they went out of their way to detail how she was drunk, alone, decided to take a ‘lonely path’ for warning? Couldn’t they issue these unnecessary guidelines without shifting the blame to her? This memo is sick!”
@NtwaKatule tweeted: “@uonbi and @vcuonbi, they could have offered security tips without blaming the victim of rape. That is why there are people who are designated to do public relations. The security man is very naive, doesn’t know what to say and when to say it.”
@YStonie said: “Whoever wrote the memo has no soul. This is Kenya 57 years after independence and we just can’t get some things right. What a shame! The memo hasn’t solved the agony and pain the victim/survivor is undergoing.”
However, a section of Twitter users said the advice issued on the memo was appropriate, only that the author “used harsh words”.
Following the barrage of backlash over the memo, University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama, in a February 25 letter to all students said he regretted the language used by Major (retired) Simon K. Cherutich in his memo dated February 24.
“I have noted that the memo was insensitive and does not represent corporate values and the image of the University of Nairobi, and [it] is highly regretted. This is therefore to assure all students of our commitment to protect and take care of them at all times,” said Prof. Kiama.