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Campus Police-students' Clashes break Fragile Peace at the Houphouet Boigny University in Abidjan

The clashes between students and campus police, this morning at the Houphouet Boigny University in Abidjan, left five students injured; one critically. The RTI, the state-run TV said the critically injured student was in intensive care at the nearest teaching hospital (Cocody).

Student injured during the Campus police-Students' clashes
Student injured during the Campus police-Students' clashes
The clashes broke out as students were trying to march out of the campus toward a large central square close by to protest the suspension of Students' unions. Some members of the campus police forced their way into one of the amphitheaters of the Medical Research and Training Unit and started to beat students they identified as the leaders of the protest movement. An official of the campus police, who asked to remain anonymous, disputed the claim.

Meanwhile students urge Ivorian authorities to establish a fact-finding committee to acknowledge and investigate the clashes; they also call for a ban on campus police.

Months before the opening of the universities, the Minister of Higher education made it clear that he would install civil police units on the campus to keep order and prevent acts of vandalism. Since 90s Ivorian universities had been marked by episodes of violence attributed to the FESCI, a student union close to former Ivorian leader Gbagbo. Some members of FESCI are still in exile; they flew to neighboring countries such as Ghana, Burina Faso and Liberia, after Gbagbo was arrested on April 11, 2011.

The unrest that followed the violent clashes led to the closure of the Houphouet Boigny University. As authorities are trying their best to make the Houphouet Boigny University a respectable institution once more they should not mistake a most pressing issue: the cohabitation of campus police and students.

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