Beginning on January 6, 2020, a number of violent clashes between police and students broke out at the University of Kinshasa, leaving one police officer dead and several others injured.
On January 6, students gathered on the University of Kinshasa (Unikin) campus to protest a rise in tuition fees for students that pay in Congolese francs; due to the conversion rate, fees paid in francs would effectively double. Students, possibly joined by non-student protesters, reportedly barricaded entrances to the university, burned tires and a vehicle, and vandalized several buildings on and off campus. Police stationed outside the university reportedly fired teargas at and clashed violently with some of the protesters, leading to injuries on both sides.
Violent clashes between police and protesters continued the following day on January 7. Police reportedly fired teargas and rubber bullets at protesters, while the protesters threw stones at police in return. One police officer was reportedly ambushed and killed by protesters. Nine police officers were reported to have been injured in the clashes, two of them critically. As of this report, the number of protesters injured is unknown.
In response to the violence, authorities arrested eleven people, five of them students. On January 7, the DRC’s Minister of Education suspended all activities at Unikin and ordered all students and protesters to vacate the campus within forty-eight hours.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence at a campus protest and the destruction of campus property. While students have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they have an obligation to refrain from physical violence. Likewise, while state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and security, they should ensure that their actions are proportionate to the situation and are do not endanger members of the higher education community. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force and violent expressive activities undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.