Two university students shot, killed in Cameroon strikes

Saturday, April 30, 2005

At least two university students have been shot and killed, and a third may have been mortally wounded after clashing with police at the University of Buea in the west-central African nation of Cameroon. The deaths come after sporadic confrontation between students and police during strikes that began last Wednesday, following by one week mostly peaceful strikes which began April 20 at another Cameroon university, Yaoundé One. A delegation of five students is said to have traveled from Yaoundé One to UB, instigating the strike at the second university.

The strikes at UB turned violent after the University Registrar, Herbert Nganjo Endeley, failed to calm the students. Police tried to disperse the students with tear gas, but were pelted by stones in retaliation. Chaos ensued, with the police also throwing stones, bludgeoning and separating the students, turning water cannons on them, raiding their residence hostels, and performing numerous arrests. The students responded by protesting, erecting barricades and destroying school property and vehicles. Several students and police were hospitalized during days of fighting.

The students were shot on Thursday in different incidents between 14:30 and 15:00 local time in Molyko — both were reported to be killed instantly. One student, Embwam Aloysius, a level 400 student of Environmental Science, received a bullet in the head, while the other student, Gilbert Nforlem, a masters degree Geology student, was shot in the chest. Local news reports indicate a female student may also have been killed, and claim that the students were shot by police. On Friday, speaking on state-run radio, Higher Education Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo called for an end to violence and said that "[President Paul Biya] has requested a judicial enquiry to establish the exact cause of the deaths."

UB, located in the town of Buea, South Province, is Cameroon's only English-speaking university in a nation where French, English, and African languages are spoken. Yaoundé One is Cameroon's largest university, located in the capital city of Yaoundé, which is shown in the above map. There are four other state-run universities in Cameroon.

Students at both universities are striking for better educational conditions. The students at UB are demanding an end to the annual school fees of 50,000 CFA Francs (US$99), reduction of school bureaucracy, and other amenities. According to the Post newspaper in Cameroon, "They want all courses offered during the re-sit, good toilets, more lecture halls, microphones in amphi-theatres; that amphi 750 should be changed to 650 because it lacks 100 seats. They also want to be offered good food at the University restaurant among others."

Some commentators in the Post's online forum expressed indignation at the deaths of the students and what they perceive as a lack of leadership by school officials, while others expressed sorrow at the loss of student lives and questioned whether the advantages they are bargaining for are really worth the price they have paid.