On April 10, 2017, security forces clashed with students protesting outside the University of Niamey over financial assistance and university resource complaints. One student died during the protest, while, according to reports, at least 88 were injured and another 313 were detained.
The protest was organized by the Union des Scolaire Nigériens, reportedly to voice concerns over government policies with respect to financial assistance, as well as longstanding complaints regarding school facilities and resources. Over three hundred students gathered in the streets surrounding the university to join the protest. Sources suggest that while many protesters demonstrated nonviolently, some students burned tires, blocked traffic, and vandalized public and private property.
Security forces on the scene reportedly launched tear gas at the protesters, some of whom responded by throwing stones. Mala Bagalé, a sociology student at the university, was killed during the clashes. An investigation into the cause of her death is ongoing students.
By the end of the protest, at least 88 protesters were reportedly injured and 313 detained. Ministry of Higher Education officials announced that the campus would be closed until further notice.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence and the use of excessive force by security forces during a student protest. While authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect the right to free expression. Use of excessive force in response to alleged unrest unnecessarily increases risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Likewise, while students have the right to free expression and assembly, those rights must be exercised in a manner that is consistent with university values including non-violence and social responsibility.