On October 5, 2018, police violently clashed with students at the University of Zambia (UNZA) campus while responding to a campus protest. Police reportedly fired tear gas canisters at a student hostel, inadvertently setting it on fire. One student died as a result.
On October 5, UNZA students organized a protest over delayed meal and accommodation allowances. During the protest, some students reportedly blocked the road to the campus with burning tires. Police on the scene violently clashed with students and fired tear gas to disperse them. Students fled to their hostels and police reportedly pursued one group of students fleeing to a predominantly female student hostel. Police fired teargas canisters at the residence, which set the building on fire, forcing some students to jump out of the burning building. Vespers Shimuzhila, a fourth-year student of UNZA’s School of Education, reportedly died as a result of smoke inhalation.
Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about violent clashes and the use of violent force by police in response to a campus protest. SAR further offers its condolences to Vespers Shimuzhila’s family, friends, and the UNZA community. While authorities have a legitimate obligation to maintain security and order on campus, such actions must be proportional to the situation and must not restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression or assembly; where such restrictions become violent, authorities must conduct thorough investigations and respond appropriately. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.