University shuts down amid violent student protest
The students’ protest action was held on 10 April and organised by major student body Union des Scolaires Nigériens (Niger Students Union or USN), which has 23,000 members, but has not been approved by the authorities.
Niger has five universities, the oldest and largest of which is Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey, originally founded in 1974 as the University of Niamey. As at 2014, Niger put 6.8% of its total gross domestic product towards education which is higher than the world average (4.5%), according to figures on the Borgen Project website.
According to a local press report on 10 April, students expressed their anger last week at the failure of the authorities to comply with their demands, including the payment of scholarships, allowances and social assistance. They also complained about the poor state of laboratories, campus infrastructure, student transportation, libraries, computer rooms and electricity.
Another news report indicated that in Niamey, pupils and students occupied roads and paralysed traffic near the campus, erecting barricades with tree trunks and rocks and setting fire to tyres.
The security forces, made up of police, gendarmerie and national guard forces, used tear gas to disperse the students, who threw rocks in response.
As a result of fighting between protesters and security forces, 20 students were reported hurt in the protests and the university has closed until further notice.
Niger's Higher Education Minister Mohamed Ben Omar described the situation as "serious and unacceptable".
"Due to the actions of students at the university of Niamey and at the demand of academic authorities, the ministry of higher education informs the public of the closure of the campus as of today and until further notice," according to a statement report which quoted a government statement.
Asked whether the academic year would be affected, Omar reassured students, saying the term would not be lost.
Staff and students of the university have been involved in protest movements in the capital in the past.
These include the 1990 Kennedy Bridge Massacre when 20 students were killed by police and armed forces during a peaceful march across the Kennedy Bridge into the Niamey city centre, and the 2006 protests when student union, Union des étudiants nigériens de l’Université de Niamey, clashed with police during a call for a general strike against the alleged withholding of scholarships as well as the deterioration of living and working conditions at the university.
Soumana Sambo Ousseini, the secretary general of the Niger Students Union, condemned the campus shutdown, claiming it was a pretext for what he called "the government's inability to satisfy their [students'] demands".
Following the protest, the Security Risk Intelligence website indicated that the risk is high and the security presence is likely to remain high in Niamey, particularly around the university campus on the south bank of the Niger River. The website advised university personnel to remain highly vigilant to protests erupting, as they are likely to be quickly dispersed by security forces.