On November 28, 2016, state security forces reportedly attacked students participating in a peaceful protest at the University of Buea (UB); an unknown number of students were also detained.
On November 27, the University of Buea Students’ Union issued a letter to UB’s vice chancellor, which made several demands including the mandating of English as the sole language of instruction at UB, the disbursement of presidential grants, and the abolishment of late-registration fees, among others. The letter further called on Anglophone students in Cameroon to participate in an indefinite strike starting November 28.
The next day, hundreds of UB students gathered on campus to participate in a protest related to the strike. While students peacefully marched and chanted, hundreds of police officers and soldiers reportedly gathered near the students and informed them that they were not permitted to protest. The students reportedly refused to disperse, indicating that they would not leave until their demands were met. Security forces then began arresting and attacking the protesters, with some officers reportedly opening fire. Media reports indicate that officers chased students through dormitories and off-campus, rounding up and beating some of them. Videos and photos show large groups of police attacking individual students with batons before arresting them. As of this report it is unclear how many students have been detained and injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against and detention of students engaged in the peaceful exercise of academic freedom, freedom of expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detention and the use of excessive force in response to student expression threatens the well-being of higher education community members, and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Higher education leaders and state authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, and to refrain from retaliating against the peaceful exercise of these rights.