Human Rights

Senegalese students demand justice

By Kemo Cham
years after a repressive police reaction to students’ demonstration caused the death of one of their colleagues; Senegalese students have been demanding what has always proven to be an elusive justice for their fallen comrade. Last Monday, February 1, marked the 9th year since Balla Gaye was gunned down by unidentified security personnel. But, as is the case always throughout the continent of Africa, the government, apparently a suspect in what can only be described as murder, remains unenthusiastic about giving the students justice. In commemoration of the day, the students converged at a hall at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, where they had the opportunity not only to remember the sad event, but also to discuss the various problems they continue to encounter, including frequent violations of academic freedom, precarious living conditions, interference into students issues by politicians, among a host of other burning issues. Visibly defiant student delegates took turn to share the floor, denouncing perpetuation of impunity and the obvious lack of political will in support of their wishes. ‘‘January 31 is a highly symbolic and historically charged date,’’ one of the speakers said. Another one deplored interference of politicians in the student movement, a move he believed is aimed at neutralize their influence. “Students and intellectuals should not remain on the margins of the political life of the nation,” another one put in, adding “union interests and political interests are not antithetical” Jean Benoit Diouf, a student leader at the Faculty of Law and Political Science, with reference to specific sections of the constitution, argued that “only the president, as chairman of the governing council of the university, can give orders to the security forces to enter the university premises and in this case threatened serious injury to persons and properties.” El Hadji Mansour Diop, student president of the Faculty of Medicine, described abuse of power as not only ‘‘inappropriate’’ but also ‘‘dangerous’’. The students were unanimous in their call for action against the perpetuators of justice. At the end, there were proposal for the establishment of a foundation in honor ‘‘martyred’’ student, Balla Gaye, as a way of offering support to his family.

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