On March 3, 2023, students and security forces clashed near the entrance of the University of Sciences and Technology of Masuku (USTM). Police arrested 12 students and a professor.
The students were protesting to demand the payment of their housing allowance and for the resumption of their classes that were paused by an ongoing teacher strike for vacation payments and better administration regulation.
The students barricaded all the entrances of the university. When police attempted to remove the barricades, the students began throwing available objects at police officers, who fired tear gas in response. Police arrested 12 students and a teacher; the president of the Union of Teacher-Researchers at USTM said the reason for the teacher’s arrest is unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violence in the course of a student protest. While state authorities have the right to take reasonable measures to ensure order, they must also exercise restraint and refrain from disproportionate actions, actions that may result in unnecessary harm, and or actions which encroach on the 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 Gabon is a party. Likewise, while students have the right to publicly assemble and express themselves on and off campus, such actions must be conducted peacefully and responsibly. Violence in the course of an on-campus protest, coming from any source, 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)