Students of Maasai Mara University leave the campus after it was shut indefinitely following violence over a disputed football match. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIEStudents of Maasai Mara University leave the campus after it was shut indefinitely following violence over a disputed football match. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE
By GEORGE SAYAGIE, @Gsayagie [email protected]

Maasai Mara University in Narok was on Monday closed indefinitely when 19 students were injured after rival groups fought over the results of a football match.

Students were sent home after a weekend of chaos, while the senate was on Monday locked up in a closed-door meeting with the university management to determine the next course of action.

A note posted on the notice board communicated the senate’s decision to close the institution because of the violence.

“Following the conflict among students that took place on November 28 and 29, the senate has decided to close the university indefinitely,” read the note signed by the senate chairperson.

ETHNIC TWIST

Narok police boss Paul Leiting said the problem started following a goal difference during a football match on Saturday.

The game was meant to mark the end of the university’s cultural week.

What organisers hoped would bring about cohesion and integration among students ended up taking an ethnic twist, and turned into a Maasai-Luo duel.

One student is admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital with serious head injuries after he was pelted with stones.

Speaking in his office, Mr Leiting said both sides claimed victory after a 1-1 draw, sparking a heated exchange between members of the two communities.

“The students started hurling stones at each other before police intervened and contained the situation,’ said Mr Leiting.

TENSION BUILDING UP

According to him, Saturday’s incident was only a manifestation of the tension that has been building up at the university.

On Sunday afternoon it is reported that a group believed to be from the Maasai community armed, with pangas and metal bars, stormed a hall where other students were watching an English Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham.

“They switched off the TV and started attacking randomly, causing a stampede. Many students were injured in the melee, before police intervened,” said Mr Leiting.

He said some of the students were taken to the Narok County Referral Hospital with deep cuts.

Students interviewed condemned what they described as a tribal confrontation. The students who spoke, however, refused to be named.

One of the students regretted the incident, saying the students are expected to be peace ambassadors.

TRIBAL STANDS

“All this started after tribal stands were taken during the football match dispute. One side refused to concede defeat, the other said ‘the university is in their locality’ and the others must keep off. Then stones started raining,” said a student.

The sudden closure of the institution caused a shortage of public service vehicles in Narok Town. Matatu crews took advantage and increased the fares.

Narok Governor Samuel Tunai and Deputy County Commissioner Ronald Miwawi condemned the violence.