On September 9, 2021, police fired tear gas at students during a protest over a proposed tuition fee increase at Gulu College of Health Sciences (GCHS).
Days earlier, students reportedly began protesting GCHS’ decision to increase tuition fees. During the September 9 protest, about 300 students gathered on campus and called for the resignation of the GCHS rector, ostensibly due to a lack of response to the students’ demands.
Police arrived on the scene and reportedly began firing tear gas to disperse students, prompting many to flee. Students in their dormitories were also reportedly forced to flee from the tear gas. Several students were hospitalized due to tear gas inhalation.
Police arrested Saul Nassasira, the Guild President of GCHS for organizing the protest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by police using force and arresting a student in an effort to restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uganda is a party. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain safety and order, they also have an obligation to refrain from actions intended to restrict nonviolent expressive activity and to refrain from disproportionate use of force. The use of force and arrests to restrict nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).