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The police, the students and the University: who to blame?

The police, the students and the University: who to blame?

This commentary was prompted by the images of a student with deep cuts all over his body posted on Social Media, allegedly inflicted by the police in their zest to restore calm during the chaos that erupted at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), one of the constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone in the eve of the congregation of the University to confer degrees and certificates to graduating students.

In their characteristic nature all over the world, the police applied ruthless means to calm the chaotic scene and prevent it from getting out of hand in the name of maintaining law and order. But more importantly, protecting themselves from being hurt or lynched.

The police released canisters of teargas to disperse the irate students and physically manhandled those students who unfortunately fell in their trap and arrested some to “help police investigation”.

The students went berserk, pelting missiles and smashing glass windows as a way of venting their anger against the University authorities who could not include their names on the lists for graduation, even though they had met all requirements; a position the authorities vehemently debunked.

Just a day to the long awaited ceremony, which students highly treasured as an extra-ordinary day in their life, marking the end of an important segment of their journey and public acceptance to academia, their hopes and spirit of excitement were suddenly dashed to the ground, when the lists were published and most of their names could not be found.

In the heat of the moment, their immediate recourse was to take the law to their hands by resorting to violence; and the police having a duty to ensure peace reigns jumped in and there were bound to be clashes.

One may be tempted to know why it should take all the time in the world for the authorities complete the verification of students exiting the University! While I agree that on one should the law to their hand, I also cannot blame the students for being angry and emotionally uncontrollable.

I would like to commend the police this time around for not using unnecessary maximum force that would have resulted in the loss of life as it traditionally happens in the context of quelling protests. The police should not be hasty to release live rounds when tear gas and rubber bullets can do the job.

As a concluder of this piece, it is but prudent that the University in future redouble their efforts in processing results in time to avert a recurrence of this nature, where students instead of walking home with pride and jubilation after toiling years in the university, would become culprits of the law. 

By Abdul Kuyateh

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