Last Monday’s riot by students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and the indefinite closure of the university is very unfortunate; more so when it was preceded by a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the university.
As at press time yesterday, with the exception of a handful of foreign students and armed military/police personnel, the entire university premises could best be described as a deserted abode.
Fortunately, even though the quantum of damage cause by the students was extensive, no life was lost. The incident could, however, go down in history as one of the most destructive marches on campus in recent years.
An official breakdown of items destroyed is follows:
30 vehicles belonging to staff of the university were burnt; the reception of the main administrative block, office of the dean of students, finance office and the offices of the university relations and security offices were vandalized; 14 motor bikes of campus security officers were damaged; the official vehicle of the Dean of Student Affairs was destroyed; Laptops, mobile phones, ladies’ handbag and other items in offices, which were broken into, were ransacked; and access gates were also destroyed.
Noticeably, nearly all the vehicles and motorbikes destroyed or set ablaze were the personal properties of staff of the university.
Monday’s demonstration, organized by the Student’s Representative Council (SRC), and which was intended to have been a peaceful march, came on the back of allegations that students were continually being treated unfairly by the management.
They claimed management’s decision to ban the organisation of vigils, also known as ‘morales’, on campus was unacceptable.
Eyewitnesses said the demonstrators initially blocked some roads on campus before cannibalizing almost everything on sight.
Interestingly, less than an hour after violence had erupted, a number of individuals and groups started calling for the resignation or dismissal of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Obiri Danso, for being, as it were, ‘impervious to reason’.
Others also blamed it on the failure of a Kumasi High Court to rule ‘reasonably’ when the matter was brought before it some months ago. Of course, there are a few who think the students were simply being ‘too wayward’.
While all these may be accepted, THE PUBLISHER thinks the incident was largely the product of poor intelligence work by operatives of the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), National Security and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in the regional capital.
This is because tension had been mounting in the university since the beginning of the year when the decision to convert all unisex halls into mixed halls became public, and even though the authorities had their way, the bad blood between management and the student body continued to linger on.
Since then, almost every policy aimed at bringing sanity to the campus was viewed as another attempt to gag the students.
In the view of the paper, had the intelligence community in the region been on top of their job, they would have been prompted by the news of an impending ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration, which was openly posted in front of several halls in the university, to be on guard.
We think that, the cancellation of lectures and a declaration of an ‘aluta’ less than 48 hours after a bloody confrontation on Friday should have sent sufficient signals to any intelligence officer worth his salt.
The paper further finds it strange that the security agencies appeared not to have gotten wind of reports that some Katanga Alumini were instrumental in the demonstration.
In our view, National Security is also culpable in this matter, and must be queried like anyone else.