Violence between police and top university’s students

There were hopes for a return to calm a week after violent confrontations between police and students led to severe damage to property on the campus of Senegal’s top Université Cheikh Anta Diop, or UCAD. Students were continuing an indefinite strike, although 22 who had faced charges in court were released.

The confrontation started on Wednesday 21 May, when the police moved in against protesting students who were on strike demanding payment of grants and access to masters courses to all first-degree graduates.

The students had blocked the avenue outside the university in Dakar and were burning tyres. Police responded with teargas, reported Sud Quotidien.

During the violence the offices of Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, director of the Centre des oeuvres universitaires de Dakar or COUD – one of the university services – were wrecked, reported the Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, or APS.

Sarr said the students had ransacked the offices and destroyed administrative documents.

“The fruit of two years’ important work we had carried out to modernise the campus and make improvements in COUD’s operations” had been destroyed. He called on the state to take measures to ensure security for his employees.

He said he would take legal action against those responsible, reported Le Soleil, which described doors forced off, computers taken away, photocopiers and other equipment smashed, files torn and desks overturned.

But, reported Le Soleil, the students refused to admit they were responsible and blamed the police for storming the campus and driving them to sow disorder.

“The police entered the campus and started attacking us. Besides, some students have fractures and brain damage. But we shall continue to demand generalisation and payment of our grants. We also want all students [with a first degree] to be eligible to study for a masters,” student spokesman El Hadji Mamoune Faye told the paper.

The students also blamed COUD security staff for a fire that destroyed a refectory, reported Le Soleil.

The clashes continued on the Thursday, reported Walfadjri of Dakar, which described students running towards projectiles thrown by police, stone-throwing and difficulties of breathing under teargas.

Sud Quotidien reported that ‘hideous’ damage was still visible on campus; debris of wrecked buildings which was scattered on the ground, burnt tyres and the bitter stench of teargas grenades which tortured the nostrils of passers-by.

Some students were packing their cases to leave for safety reasons, while others, determined to continue the fight, were meeting to work out a strategy to confront the police, said Sud Quotidien.

A wider problem

It reported that Ndème Dieng, a member of UCAD’s student action group, said the government refused to respect the principle of legality and legitimacy because students had not received their grants for nine months and the government wanted to introduce selection for masters courses.

Dieng said that students from other universities in Dakar, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor and Bambey had launched a collective protest call for demonstrations, to show President Macky Sall he was not only incapable of managing the country but also of managing the student problem, reported Sud Quotidien.

The same day at a ministerial meeting, Sall issued orders for Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo to ensure appropriate security measures in universities for students who wanted to study; and for laws to be applied against those who had committed acts of violence on campuses, reported APS.

Following continuing tension on the campus, students were continuing their indefinite strike a week after the violence, but there were nevertheless hopes for peace after the acquittal last Wednesday of 22 students who had been charged with illegal assembly, destruction of property, violence and assault, reported Radio France Internationale.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.