On July 21, 2017, Congolese soldiers and police reportedly opened fire on University of Kinshasa (UNIKIN) students demonstrating against the detention of two classmates. Two student protesters died during the incident.
On July 20, police had entered the university grounds to search for opposition figures whom authorities alleged were involved in recent acts of violence aimed at the ruling party. Two UNIKIN students were arrested for protesting the presence of the police on campus.
The following day, scores of UNIKIN students demonstrated on campus, demanding the release of their classmates and protesting the ongoing police presence. Soldiers and police on the scene reportedly opened fire and launched tear gas to disperse the students, resulting in two student deaths and multiple injuries. Campus property, including two vehicles, was reportedly destroyed by students during the protest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force by police during student protests. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the right to free expression, so long as it is exercised peacefully and responsibly, and must avoid disproportionate measures that may result in harm. Likewise, students have an obligation to exercise the right to free expression in a manner that is consistent with university values including non-violence and social responsibility. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.