Benin: Ban on student associations shows alarming trend to stifle legitimate dissent
In response to the decision of the Council of Ministers of Benin to ban the activities of student associations on university campuses, Amnesty International West Africa researcher François Patuel said:
“The ban is part of an unacceptable attempt to stifle legitimate dissent among student groups through repressive and intimidating measures including the use of excessive force during demonstration and the arbitrary detention of youth activists.”
“The banning of students from universities and the invalidation of the academic years in faculties where demonstration takes place are also alarming.”
“This blanket ban on the activities of student associations must be lifted immediately in order to restore social justice and peace on the campuses, as well as to guarantee that students can freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”
On 5th October, the Council of Ministers in Benin has banned the activities of student associations in all universities in the country. This follows a tense situation which in July led to the security forces using tear gas and batons to disperse a peaceful demonstration by students in the capital Cotonou. At least twenty people were injured.
The students were protesting to call on the authorities to pay allowances and organise exams. At least 9 students were arrested following the demonstrations and detained for two weeks before being released.
Twenty-one students presumed to have participated in the protests were banned from registering at the university for five years. In August, the university decided it would invalidate the academic year for all the students in the faculty where most demonstrators were studying, affecting thousands of students.