On February 28, 2022, the Congolese National Police employed tear gas to disperse student protesters demanding the resumption of academic activities at the University of Kisangani, which have been stalled since January 2022 due to an ongoing strike by university faculty.
According to KIS 24, roughly 500 students gathered near the university’s campus and began marching peacefully with signs. Shortly after the march began, disagreements broke out between the students and police. The police reportedly employed tear gas to disperse the students just minutes into the march and some students allegedly responded by throwing stones. Police told the Congolese Press Agency that the students did not have approval to hold the march.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by state security forces using disproportionate force to disperse students peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct which 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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a party. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain security and safety, they must also refrain from the disproportionate use of force and ensure that their actions are not intended to retaliate against student expression and do not endanger civilians. Students are also reminded to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly peacefully and to refrain from engaging in violence. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the disproportionate use of force to chill or restrict students’ expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.