KNUST closed down after riots

BY: Kwame Baffoe Donkor
One of the vandalised vehicles
One of the vandalised vehicles

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has been closed down indefinitely following a violent demonstration by the students on the university campus in Kumasi yesterday.

The Ashanti Regional Security Council (REGSEC), which took the decision at an emergency meeting with the university authorities, also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the university campus with immediate effect.

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Speaking to the media after the emergency meeting, the Ashanti Regional Regional Minister, Mr Simons Osei-Mensah, said the students had been asked to leave the campus by midday today.

The REGSEC has made security arrangements for the foreign students of the university.

The demonstration by the students of KNUST against the ‘tyrannical’ style of the university administration, turned violent, leading to the massive destruction of public and individual properties.


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The demonstration was also intended to express grave concern over the use of force by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kwasi Obiri Danso, to cow them into submission.

Before the demonstration, 11 students of the University Hall (Katanga) who had participated in the usual entertainment programme (otherwise called moral session) of the hall last Friday were allegedly brutalised and arrested by the university’s internal security men and handed over to the KNUST Police Station, where they were detained.

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Moral sessions are processions of students usually on campus, amid singing and dancing, and are very common with the all-male halls of residence.

On Monday, October 17, 2018, the management of the University Hall issued a circular banning all forms of moral sessions with immediate effect and warned that anyone “who flouts this directive shall receive the necessary sanctions and response”.

Already, some of the students of Katanga are unhappy about the decision of the university authorities to convert Katanga and Unity Hall into mixed halls.

Demonstration

Despite the notice by the authorities banning ‘morales’, the students of Katanga went ahead to organise the programme last Friday, a situation that resulted in a clash between the university’s internal security men and some of the students,

Following the arrest and alleged brutalities meted out to some of the students of the University Hall, the Executive Council of the Students Representative Council (SRC) issued a notice to all students to boycott lectures yesterday and embark on a demonstration, saying that “enough is enough”.

The supposedly peaceful demonstration became violent when the irate students started vandalising public and individual properties.

Clad in red and black attire and armbands, the students moved from one point to another, vandalising properties.

The initial plan was to move from the Ayeduase Gate of the university to present a petition to the university authorities, but the peaceful demonstration degenerated into a violent action.

The glass frontage of the main administration block was shattered, flower vases broken, dustbins damaged and contents scattered all over the streets.

Concrete slabs over gutters were used to barricade the roads and almost all the roads on the campus were littered with blocks and stones.

Security personnel on campus abandoned their posts, as almost all their posts were razed down.

Even the Security Department of the university did not escape the wrath of the rampaging students.

The demonstrators smashed vehicles and destroyed the security ledger book in which the personnel make entries of their movement and those of their vehicles.
The security personnel had to abandon post for of their lives as the students went on rampage and vandalised everything in sight.

Security

The police who were initially detailed to maintain law and order were helpless in the face of the number of students taking part in the demonstration.

Although there was a canon water tank parked in front of the University Main Library, most of the policemen did not have enough riot and crowd control equipment to deal with the situation.

It had to take reinforcement from the military, armed to the teeth, to disperse the students and bring about some order.

However, the attempt by the military to fire rubber bullets into the students gathered in front of the Unity Hall (Conti) did not work when the students realised that the shots were rubber bullets.

Initially, they dispersed when they heard the shots but reassembled when they realised that the shots were not live bullets and marched towards the military men, amid clapping and singing.

Some could be seen carrying stones, while others were overheard saying: “They cannot kill all of us. They cannot intimidate us with the military.”

URO

The University Relations Officer, Mr Kwame Yeboah Jnr, said the authorities of the university had been aware of the demonstration and thought it was going to be peaceful but it turned violent.

“Damage is quite huge and enormous and you ask yourself if this is the way to go,” he said.

According to him, the university administration would hold a meeting to assess the damage and decide on the next line of action.

Ministry of Education

In a statement in Accra yesterday on the KNUST demonstration, the Ministry of Education expressed concern about the developments on the university’s campus, particularly, with regard to bodily injuries and the detention of some students, as well as the destruction of public property.

The statement signed by Mr Vincent Ekow Assafuah, Director of Communication, the ministry appealed for calm on all sides as a first step to resolving the difficulties.

Meanwhile, the statement said a delegation from the ministry, led by the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, would meet the university authorities and the students at the university’s campus today.

Related: KNUST Police pick up 11 Katanga Hall students

Read also: KNUST students clash with security; One injured, 11 arrested

Related: KNUST Police pick up 11 Katanga Hall students

Read also: KNUST Demo: Military, Police deployed following destruction of vehicles, property

Related: KNUST students clash with security; One injured, 11 arrested

Read also: KNUST students clash with security; One injured, 11 arrested

Background

The SRC Executive Council in a statement titled: ACTION NOW, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, implored students to abandon the lecture halls today (Monday, October 22, 2018) for the demonstration against police brutality of students.

"The KNUST SRC Executive Council in joint forces with SRC Parliamentary Council and all Student leaders brings to the notice of all KNUST students that we are embarking on a demonstration tomorrow 22nd October, 2018. NO LECTURES TOMORROW. We have had enough," the statement said.

The statement followed the arrest of the 11 students of the University Hall (Katanga Hall) who were arrested Friday night for “illegal assembly and violent behaviour”.

The students have accused the police of using excessive force to break up their gatherings.