Students in Cameroon beaten and intimidated for protesting
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Security forces in Cameroon violently cracked down on a student protest at the University of Buea on November 29. The city is the administrative centre of the country's mainly English-speaking southwest region. Several students reacted by uploading videos of the abuse online, whilst others simply fled. The protesters were calling on the authorities to do away with financial penalties when students fail to pay tuition fees on time.
The pictures tell the story: security forces chasing students, protesters beaten with batons, and police firing rounds of tear gas on the campus of the University of Buea, Cameroon's most important English-speaking university.
Students in Buea were demonstrating to ask university administrators to get rid of the fixed penalty fee of 10,000 CFA francs [15 euros], applicable to anyone who's late in paying tuition fees. The University of Buea is the only university in Cameroon where such penalties exist.
"The police charged at the students with batons"Awah is a young student at the University of Buea. He tells FRANCE 24's Observers what he witnessed.
The protest started in the morning, and not long after, the police arrived. The students shouted, "No violence!" The police told them that they weren't allowed to gather and ordered them off campus. The students responded by saying that they wouldn't leave until their demands had been met by the university administration.
The policemen then organised themselves into a line and began charging at the students, beating those who wouldn't budge with batons. At that moment, I ran and hid in a friend's studio that isn't far from the entrance to the campus.
"There was tear gas everywhere, so the students had to run and hide in the dormitories"
The students hit back by throwing rocks. Then the security forces responded with tear gas, forcing many of the students to run and hide in the dormitories. But officers also fired tear gas at the rooms' balconies, as if they were trying to force the students to come back out so they could hit them. We had to cover our mouths and noses with towels soaked in water. Some officers broke into the rooms by breaking down the doors. Others fired shots into the air to disperse the protesters.
At around ten o'clock in the evening, I left the campus to go seek shelter in Limbe [a city about 30 kilometres from Buea]. But even this morning, many students were still frightened to go outside. Others decided to go back to stay with their parents, at least for the time being.
Since Tuesday, several videos showing security forces beating students have been shared constantly on social media networks:
In this video, officers can be heard counting in French the number of times the student on the ground has been beaten.
A handful of videos show several female students being humiliated by security forces:
In this video, an officer orders a student lying down in the mud to roll over (0'40). Another young girl is then dragged through the mud (1'40).
Apart from the demand for the late payment penalty fee to be scrapped, students are also calling for students to be paid the 'bonus for excellence', a sum worth 50,000 CFA francs [76 euros] that was introduced by Cameroon's president in 2010 to reward top performers.
The students have also been showing their support for local English-speaking lawyers and teachers, many of whom have been protesting against the creeping encroachment of the French language in education and the regional legislature.
On Tuesday evening, officials announced that they had responded to the protesters' core demand and abolished the 10,000 francs CFA penalty fee for late tuition payments. However, an official announcement has yet to be made regarding the students' other demands, who say they'll keep demonstrating until their grievances are addressed.