The 22 October 2018 KNUST Riot revealed a total loss of confidence in the administrative functions of one of Ghana’s foremost centres of scholarship, by its student community. The non-violent, sober and well-coordinated protest was marred by gunshots fired by the police to disperse the crowd, arousing a spontaneous outburst of frustration. This led to the unfortunate destruction of properties by a few protesters.
A section of the media has portrayed the grievances of the students as a circus of hooliganism, turning a blind eye to the legitimate motives behind the protest and the decision of the KNUST SRC to the petition the Vice-Chancellor.
The operation of the institutions’ internal security as an aggressive vigilante group was the focus of the protest. Blatantly disregarding the human rights of citizens and the laws governing the Republic, students were physically assaulted with tasers, rods and unlawfully detained for hours in a private cell of the security department.
Gruesome videos have circulated on social media exposing the savagery of the security department despite their attempts to crack down on this exposé. Indeed, according to an official statement by the KNUST Students’ Representative Council, an Angel FM journalist was arrested while reporting on an incident of student brutality during a vigil to honour a recently deceased member of the KNUST student community.
Students expressed their grievances through the SRC which brought their complaints before the administrative authorities on several occasions demanding an end to student brutality. The dean of students and district police were informed of the decision by the SRC to embark on a non-violent protest against the injustices suffered by their comrades.
The authorities did not engage the SRC in dialogue as an initial step towards a peaceful resolution of the issues at stake. Instead, a threat was issued on 21 October 2018 by the administration to suppress the protest. The riots could have been averted if the Vice-Chancellor had heeded the warning of the SRC. The inaction of the authorities rendered them complicit in the perpetuation of student brutality.
I do not believe it was the intention of the students to resort to the destruction of property but such is the mood of a citizenry exhausted with the failure of leadership in the face of oppression.
The security department is a direct instrument of oppression and a threat to the welfare of students and must be dissolved with immediate effect! The culprits must be dealt with by the law of the Republic. In such an oppressive environment, the freedom guaranteed students within the boundaries law, by the Republic have been consistently stifled.
My sympathies are with the community of students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
By: Vincent Letsa Kobla Djokoto
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