On September 23, 2022, police responding to a student protest at the University of Malawi reportedly fired tear gas at students and campus residence halls after students delivered a petition against the university’s decision to schedule a five-month holiday. Police and students reportedly engaged in running battles.
A police official initially stated that officers fired tear gas to disperse the students, but noted that some junior officers engaged in an improper response by targeting the dormitories and that they would be investigated. A local police commissioner soon after issued a public apology for the incident, stating that they “will institute measures to ensure that incidents of similar nature should never happen again within Unima campus.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the use of tear gas in response to a nonviolent, on-campus student protest. While law enforcement have a responsibility to maintain order and security, they must exercise restraint and refrain from actions intended to retaliate against or deter nonviolent expressive activity or that endanger members of the campus community. Students likewise have a responsibility to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly peacefully and responsibly.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)