|UB Campus has been Militarized (Picture on 15/05/2013)|
Following violent confrontations at the institution on Wednesday, an atmosphere of fear and distrust now reigns. The deployment of heavily armed security forces all over the campus has not helped matters.
On Wednesday May 15, 2013, students of the institution were on strike. Six persons were injured and at least three vehicles belonging to the institution were destroyed by striking students, an official of the university who asked not to be named said.
Another official said the students mainly want charges at a Buea court against 12 student leaders dropped and for fresh first semester examinations to be set for the suspects who were rounded up during the examinations period.
The students were charged to court for holding the Vice Chancellor, Dr Nalova Lyonga, hostage for over three hours in her car on campus during a strike in February.
The students also want the institutions leadership to let the union elect its leadership before May 20 and demand that the union be accorded funding, a release on Saturday from the University of Buea Students Union (UBSU) stated.
In a crisis meeting in Buea on Thursday, Nalova called on the government to help the University of Buea to apply Higher Education Minister Jacques Fame Ndongo’s instructions on the setting up and functioning of students unions.
The latest strike comes after talks ended in a deadlock on two occasions.
Asked whether the case with the students would be withdrawn, the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Nalova Lyonga reportedly said she was just a witness in a case filed by the state.
When the riots erupted the Vice Chancellor was in Yaounde attending the 29th session of the Inter-University Consultative Committee (CCIU) charged with the examination of the files of lecturers in search of promotion.
Members of the CCIU were meeting at the Advanced Teachers Training College, ENS Yaounde.
The reasons at the heart of the chaos at the University of Buea are legion but the collection of dues by the University of Buea Students Union (UBSU) is one of the most contentious issues.
In conformity with the tradition at most Anglo Saxon Universities, UBSU is a vibrant association with a strong membership and was actively engaged in the securing the commitment of former and potential students.
Dr Nalova’s baptism of fire was in October 2012 barely four months after being named to the helm of the institution.
She stated in a release that “participation in UBSU was a purely voluntary option and any attempt to force the payment of dues constitutes an unruly and illegal act running contrary to the principles guiding student union membership as laid down by the Minister”.
The communiqué was guaranteed to provoke a violent reaction from UBSU whose administration referred to Article 23 of the Common Statute of Students of State Institutions of Higher Learning in Cameroon insisting on the obligatory nature of such payment.
Given the stalemate, a confrontation was inevitable. Navola was thus faced with the task of managing her first strike in UB. Though there was disruption of lectures, UB authorities ultimately regained control by arresting the ringleaders and inundating the school campus with law enforcement officers.
In an interview with NewsWatch (published in issue No. 002 of October 31, 2012), the Vice Chancellor made it clear that “UB students MUST NOT, but may pay dues to UBSU”.
She acknowledging she cannot ban UBSU, but said “the university union is just an association like any other. You cannot force anybody to belong to an association”.
Far from being the last, as the dust was yet to settle on the October 2012 strike, the students in February 2013 went to the streets again.
The protesting students were calling for a rapid resumption of businesses on campus such printing and fast food stalls and kiosks amongst other things.
Four students were arrested in the riot and two of them were released a few days later after paying FCFA 700, 0000, reports say.
The Wednesday May 15, 2013 strike is believed to have been orchestrated by the detention of some UBSU officials by the UB administration in connection with the February strike.