MADAGASCAR/SENEGAL: Protests over unpaid grants

Unpaid student grants and benefits have led to violent demonstrations in Antsiranana, Madagascar - in which one student was killed in a confrontation with security forces - and in Dakar, Senegal.

Students at the University of Antisarana had started demonstrating in March when a 10% increase in grants promised by the Higher Education Minister Athanase Tongavelo failed to materialise.

In the latest protests, Olivier Ninjaka, a first-year student at the university, was badly injured during clashes with police and military forces, and died later. Six others were wounded, two of them by bullets, reported L'Express of Antananarivo.

The students had been demonstrating in the town, and when they occupied a school the security forces dispersed them with teargas. The students then erected barricades across a road and, according to a senior officer quoted in L'Express, ravaged market stalls and threw stones and insults at the security forces. Ninjaka was reportedly shot in the head in crossfire during this incident, according to students, said the paper.

More violence occurred the next day, when Ninjaka's body was being taken to the station for transportation home. As the cortege passed security posts students threw stones and an officer fired back. Six people were wounded during the altercations, including an academic, said L'Express. Two of them were hit by bullets.

The government responded to the violence, with Prime Minister Camille Vital promising to investigate and to take action on the unpaid grants. Tongavelo and General Claude Ravelomanana, State Secretary for the Gendarmerie, visited o Antsiranana to try to calm the situation, reported L'Express.

The protests at UCAD, the University Cheikh Antar Diop of Dakar, were carried out by first-year students who were angry they had not yet received any of their grants and benefits, valued at CFA60,000 (US$120) a year, which should have been payable from October, reported Sud Quotidien of Dakar.

The students threatened to paralyse the system until their grievances were sorted out, said the paper.

The demonstrations started on the evening of Tuesday 27 April, and continued the following day when students invaded university cafeterias and prevented breakfast being served. But intervention by security forces stopped them barricading the road outside the university.

Clashes between the two sides were marked by teargas from the law and stones from the students.

The grants authority rejected responsibility for the troubles, and said funding for the new students had not yet been released by the public treasury.

Damage to the university caused by the rioting students was estimated by one source quoted by L'Express at CFA5 million.

o Meanwhile, a number of students have been expelled from the Catholic University of Congo in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, reported Le Potentiel of Kinshasa.

The expulsions followed protests in March by students demanding the dismissal of the Academic Secretary-general, Abbot Libambu, as well as other demands including repairs to the lavatories.

The demonstrations were not approved by the students' representative committee or other recognised authority, and led to some acts of vandalism said Le Potentiel.

An inquiry by the university, supported by the church authorities, led to punishments for the student protesters of varying severity in accordance with internal regulations. They included reprimands, suspensions of up to three months and, in an unspecified number of cases, permanent expulsion.

In Madagascar, under the Rajoelina regime, violent repression and unlawful killings are becoming "the rule" rather than the exception every time there is a demonstration or protest. It is "shoot first, ask after". No-one believes in the gestures of the regime.