SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 12, 2013

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Abomey-Calavi University

Region & Country:Western Africa | Benin

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Security forces in Benin have reportedly responded to peaceful, on-campus demonstrations by firing teargas at protesting students and arresting student leaders at the Abomey-Calavi University (ACU).
Student protests began on November 4, 2013, in response to a decision by the university rector to require students to pay additional fees when registering for classes in more than one university department.  As the crowd of students marched towards an amphitheater on campus, security forces fired teargas on them, prompting a stampede as students fled to avoid the gas. According to sources, scores of students were injured, with several knocked unconscious by the gas and transferred to the local hospital or campus infirmary for treatment.  The university has reportedly been under police surveillance since the day of the protest.
On November 11, 2013, three student unions, Fédération nationale des étudiants du Bénin (FNEB), de l’Union nationale des étudiants du Bénin (UNEB) and l’Union des scolaires et étudiants du Bénin (UNSEB), organized further protest activities, declaring a two-day campus strike called “dead campus” in which many students chose not to attend classes. The following day, the president of the ACU section of the UNSEB, Damien Dégbé, along with other student leaders, were allegedly arrested by government police forces and remain in custody as of this report.  Benin security forces have reportedly been occupying the campus since November 11, 2013.  
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent use of disproportionate force by security forces against students engaged in the non-violent exercise of protected human rights, including freedom of expression and association. Scholars at Risk is also concerned about the apparent wrongful arrest of student leaders for their involvement in non-violent student protests.  Violent crackdowns, arrests, and occupation of a university campus in response to such protests exert a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine university autonomy.