Universities reopen after protests over student kidnappings

Universities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province have started to reopen following a student protest over kidnappings. One of the students who disappeared has been released, but another remains missing.

One of the students, Yussuf Assumani, a third-year in electrical engineering, was released after about 10 days, once his family paid an unknown amount in ransom to the kidnappers. The kidnappers demanded US$10,000, but the family did not confirm how much they paid.

The incident took place at night on 14 August when Assumani was forcibly taken from the l’Institut Supérieur des Techniques Appliquées, or ISTA-Goma, with reference to its location.

Sources close to the victim told University World News he appears weak and is traumatised. He is still receiving medical treatment.

On 5 August, another kidnapping took place at the l’Institut Supérieur de Commerce, also in Goma town. The kidnappers, according to sources, took a student in the late afternoon and demanded that the family pay US$5,000, later doubling the figure. Earlier, reports suggested that Fernando Rachidi was released, but he remains missing.

The kidnappings prompted students from different universities to combine efforts to protest and they have been taking the matter to the streets with posters calling for the unconditional release of the kidnapped students and demanding assurances from authorities that the security of students and the public will be improved. They said they want an environment on campuses where they can study without fear.

“Our unity is our strength, and we urge our fellow students to stand with us in demanding safer campuses for all,” said Dany Kambale, a student representative at the North Kivu university.

Students protest

“As the students of North Kivu, particularly from ISTA-Goma, we are tired of the [incidents] that have not stopped happening in our province in a period when we are supposed to enjoy high security,” read a poster carried by protesters. The students said cases of robbery, rape and kidnapping have been affecting them.

Kambale called on the authorities, especially security organs, to follow up kidnapping cases diligently and ensure that those responsible are caught and punished.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially the North Kivu Province where the kidnapping cases have been reported, is the home of several rebel groups which have been destabilising the region.

Translated from the French by Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti