On May 2, 2023, police used tear gas to disperse Kyambogo University students who were protesting over several education-related issues. Several students were also arrested.
The students had previously sent letters to the Kyambogo University Senate and Vice Chancellor, Professor Eli Katunguka, demanding changes related to high tuition charges, delayed government allowances for university costs, and missing grades. After the letters were unaddressed, students launched a protest. Police reportedly arrested at least seven students for unlawful assembly. Police planned to hold the students overnight, expressing concern that the students would incite violence upon their release.
Scholars at Risk is concerned with the use of tear gas and subsequent arrest of students for exercising their right to expression. While state authorities have the right to implement reasonable laws and regulations to ensure order and protect state officials, they must also exercise restraint and refrain from actions that may result in unnecessary harm. In addition, state authorities must allow students to peacefully exercise 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 Uganda is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force to restrict or deter 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)