On May 15, 2018, security forces clashed violently with students at the University Gaston Berger (UGB) in Saint Louis, Senegal, killing one student and injuring others.
In the days leading up to the incident, the students had reportedly taken over the campus office of the Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires (an administrative office that oversees scholarships, residence halls, and dining services) as part of a protest over the university’s alleged failure to disburse student grants. As part of their protest, students had announced “journées sans tickets” (JST, or days without tickets) during which they would eat in the campus dining halls, but would refuse to pay using campus dining tickets.
On May 14, UGB’s rector issued a statement denouncing the JST and announcing that precautions would be taken to “secure the [university] restaurants.” Early the next morning, gendarme officers arrived on campus and began clashing with the student protesters. One of the officers reportedly fired his gun, striking Mouhamadou Fallou Sène, a second-year student at UGB. Mr. Sène later died after being taken to the hospital.
Protests over Mr. Sène’s death quickly broke out at UGB and other Senegalese universities. The protests were reportedly accompanied by acts of vandalism, more clashes with security forces, and injuries to at least 20 students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes on campus between state security forces and student protesters — in particular the killing of a student. While authorities have a legitimate responsibility to maintain security and order on campus, such efforts must be proportional to the situation. Likewise, students have a responsibility to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and democratic society generally.