On February 7, 2022, police and student protesters clashed on the Makerere University (MU) campus, leading to use of tear gas that left one student severely injured.
On February 7, MU’s student leadership body began a two-day strike on campus to protest the university’s decision to continue online classes while COVID-19 restrictions in the country had been eased. 10 students were detained during the protests, which were reportedly marked by violence and clashes with police. Video shows police firing tear gas cannisters into university buildings, including student residences.
Third-year student Richard Ssebuganda, who was not participating in the protest, returned to his dormitory to find a tear gas canister in his bedroom. When the student picked up the canister to dispose of it, it exploded. Two of the student’s fingers were amputated, and medical professionals have told him that the injuries may require amputation of his entire hand.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the disproportionate use of force by police in response to a campus protest. While state authorities have a right to maintain public order and safety, they should ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not endanger members of the campus community, and are not intended to restrict or retaliate against nonviolent, responsible expressive activity. Students, likewise, also have a responsibility to refrain from violence while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.