General News of Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Former students of KNUST have catalogued abuses students suffer which triggered violent protest Monday.
A seven-page press statement by the ‘Concerned Fellows of Kantanga Hall’ said KNUST lecturers are known to cane students.
The statement submitted links to video evidence of caning of some students including females. Some believe the caning was light-hearted and jovial.
But the students who are former residents of Katanga Hall maintain, the practice of caning is well known and ‘not surprising’.
The students recalled, all males within a block at Katanga Hall were once ordered onto a pitch and directed to kneel in the rain.
It was punishment for singing ‘ jama’ songs and allowing ‘infiltration’ by continuing students who do not reside on the main campus, the statement further alleges.
KNUST has become a ghost town after the Ashanti Regional Security Council imposed a curfew and shut down the school indefinitely.
While media reports have linked the disturbances to the decision of the university to convert the male halls into mixed halls, the students have said the Monday protest was about a culture of oppression.
The students say as important stakeholders in the second largest university in Ghana, their views are not taken into consideration by the university authorities led by Vice-Chancellor Prof. Obiri Danso who is facing calls to resign.
The protest which has gained national attention and government intervention has seen the students venting in the media.
A student has said duly elected hall executives not favourable to school authorities were removed from office and replaced by first-year students.
The concerned fellows of Kantanga Hall criticised the University for shaming and sanctioning four female students for accommodating males in their rooms at odd hours. They wondered how the university would find that offensive after converting the previously male hall into a mixed one.
The university has been on a collision course with students following attempts to halt and ban ‘jama sessions’ on campus – a more than 50-year-old practice popularly called ‘morale’.
Press Release by the Concerned Katangees on the student protest at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
ON THE 22nd OF OCTOBER 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, fellow Ghanaians, we the Concerned Katangees (Fellows) have followed with great concern the unfortunate disturbances on the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) on Monday October 22, 2018 that has led to the closure of the University. As stakeholders in the affairs of the University and especially Katanga Hall, we were duty bound to make a statement whilst we await a formal one from the Alumini Association (the Association). We would also use this opportunity to serve a rejoinder to debunk a Press Statement from “University Management” (assuming they are who we think they are), which contains salacious misrepresentations and outright falsehoods designed as always, to throw dust in the eyes of well- meaning Ghanaians and to malign anything KATANGA.
Before we go further, we take this opportunity to reprove the damage caused to University and private property on Monday. We also wish our brothers who were assaulted by the University Security staff and those suffering nightmares from being needlessly put behind bars a speedy recovery so that they can go back to their avocations. We are committed to help the University in any shape or form to restore the damage and have already made overtures to reputable firms in this regard should the University call on us.
Whilst we are disappointed at the turn of events, we dare say from our years and history of student activism, are not surprised. The Association has been absolutely clear in all their press outings and petitions to the President of the Republic (His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo), Chancellor of the University (His Royal Highness, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II), the Council of State and the Minsters responsible for Education that, University authorities have unleashed a reign of abuse, intimidation and terrorism with the ultimate goal of killing student activism especially in Katangees. Unfortunately, their calls for intervention have largely not received resposnes from those who were petitioned and who have the power to put an end to the series of attacks on defenseless students. Their Press Release of the 5th of September available at https://www.classfmonline.com/1.11818296 speaks to some of these issues which they duly brought to the attention of the nation.
To start off, we wish to make it abundantly clear that KNUST does not belong to VC Obiri-Danso and his apologists. It belongs to Ghana. There have been many VCs before him and many would follow. It appears the students ultimately lost all confidence in the ability of state security and the justice system to protect them and took matters into their own hands. We have had the pleasant opportunity of associating with current students and their leaders in diverse ways and can vouch for their integrity and respect for the rule of law and due process. Those students would never resort to any underhand activities to fight a just cause. The University should own up to its own failures and stop pointing fingers. Monday, October 22, 2018 is indeed a day of national disgrace and an indelible scar on the image of KNUST. And for this, the authorities in charge must be held accountable. We are therefore demanding that;
a. All stakeholders work together to ensure the immediate de-escalation of hostilities. In particular, we very humbly appeal to all official and unofficial student leaders to use their influence to calm down the irate students and help restore peace on campus.
b. As a matter of urgency, the University issues an unqualified public apology to all students who have been subjected to physical assault by its security operatives and other forms of public humiliation and abuse.
c. The University Council initiates impartial and comprehensive investigations into the misconduct and abuse of authority by the University management and campus security personnel, including the constitutionally- protected human rights of the students.
d. The University Council immediately puts the Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students and the Katanga Hall Administration on administrative leave to enable comprehensive and impartial investigations to be conducted.
e. The Executive Committee of the KNUST Alumni Association resigns en-bloc and pave the way for the election of new executives. That Association has been so far removed from the welfare of students and tone deaf to their concerns that they have zero credibility or influence among the student body.
f. The Inspector General of Police instructs his men and women to desist from being appendages of the autocratic University management, and impartially deliver their mandate to protect lives and property, including of the students.
g. The State’s security apparatus use all fair and justifiable means to ensure that students and faculty have the peace and serenity for their academic pursuits.
h. The University immediately restores its merit-based access to accommodation and put an immediate end to the in-out-out-out policy where only a fraction of first years are provided university accommodation and everybody else must fend for themselves.
In setting the records straight for the benefit of the nation and those who do not know, we now submit as follows;
i. Ghanaians must be made aware of a small but important catalogue of the abuse of students and student leaders on campus (particularly Unity and Katanga Halls) which has recently happened in the University. For time and space, we have chosen not to bore you with the historical ones like the wanton rustications and the withholding of final certificates of student leaders which are still pending. We would for the purpose of today, restrict ourselves to the period between the 1st of August 2018 and Monday as you would find below;
The first provocative act was when new Hall Matron Maame Dufie Azumah (Matron) caused the emptying of the room which had the drums and Jama equipment of Katangees under the guise of creating extra rooms. As a result, some of the equipment which have been in the ownership of the hall from time immemorial were damaged.
j.The University Security (Security) brutalised students singing Jama at the Royal Parade Grounds in front of Queens Hall which was captured on camera. A parent who was in the vicinity and tried to intervene was manhandled and sent to the Security HQ. We have his number for those who may want to verify. The University denied this happened but later retracted. https://www.pulse.com.gh/communities/student/video-captures-knust-students-being-assaulted-by- security-id8831720.html
k. A Katangee was arrested by the Security without cause on the instructions of the Matron and deliberately framed with having caused a fire in the hall when he had come to buy food at the hall canteen which is in front of the hall. He was whisked to the Security HQ and passed on the KNUST Police (Police). The Association was on hand to secure bail for him and he has since been reporting to the police frequently even though no formal charges have been made.
l. Three Katangees went to the KNUST swimming pool at the invitation of the current SRC President when the latter was there organising a get-together for freshers. Security tried to intimidate the Katangees for showing up there and a scuffle ensured. They were bundled to the Security HQ and later put in the cells of Police. The Association again was on hand to arrange their bail from the Police.
m. The instruction from the Katanga Hall administration for all male students (now occupying only the annex of the hall), to vacate their rooms and congregate on the parade grounds in the hall because they were all singing Jama songs and it was the suspicion that they had been infiltrated by continuing students. These students were made to kneel down on the parade grounds at a time when it was raining and warned not to speak to anyone about their treatment or risk losing their rooms. Yes University students being made to kneel down in the rain. It is not surprising because lecturers of KNUST have been known to cane students. https://ugfile.com/knust-students-caned-by-lecturer/
n. On one Friday at one of the Jama Sessions, the Security brought an already damaged 4×4 vehicle towards Katanga Hall in an effort to create the narrative that it had been damaged by the students so as to give them the manufactured reason to brutalise the boys and put the fear of God in them. We have the evidence and await the University’s rebuttal if they would dare to.
o. On another Friday at one of the Jama Sessions, the Security impounded an Uber taxi that had been used to deliver drums used by the students. The car was taken to the Security HQ and later released. We would come to why the drums were kept outside campus later but suffice to say the Association later had to make arrangements to retrieve the drums from the Security into the care of Stephen Otoo a member of the Association in Kumasi who was later to be arrested on Friday October 12th 2018 .
Continuing students of KATANGA have been banished from using any facilities in the hall, including the restaurant that caters to the general student population.
p. The Matron prevented male students from leaving the hall on numerous times because they wanted to join in Jama sessions on the forecourt. Yes they were effectively imprisoned in the hall and threatened with rustication and the loss of their rooms if they disobeyed.
q. The University blatantly refused to allocate rooms to current Hall Executives of Katanga and Unity Halls for daring to take the matter of mixing the Halls to court. The University PRO is on record as having stated that if they have sued the school, then they were persona non-grata. It is not worthy that neither the SRC nor the main University Alumni did anything about this.
s. Unity Hall issued a notice shaming students for visiting the opposite sex after some hours. The students in question were humiliated on all social media handles. We were of the understanding that mixing the halls was the best thing since sliced bread so it came to us as a surprise that a boy found in a girls room or vice versa was an issue for the University that sought to promote that very intercourse. What was most worrisome was the disregard for the privacy of these poor students with their names and University details posted all other the web with the issue of this bullying notice. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/4-female-residents-of-Unity-Hall-sanctioned- for-accommodating-male-student-686088
t. The sample matters raised above are just representative as there was more person to person intimidation and the coercion of student leaders under various guises to pitch them against each other. We unfortunately have not been given permission to share any of those because of the fear of victimisation.
u. As if the matters sampled above were not enough to point to the growing angst of the student population, the University again were at it last Friday October 19, 2018 and we take pains to set out the key aspects despite the volume, so as to show how we ended up with the unfortunate incidents of Monday.
a. On the afternoon of Friday, an unsigned notice at the instance of “Hall Management” (whoever that is) was displayed in Katanga hall directing that all forms of “morale” in and around KATANGA are suspended with immediate effect. The notice carried a warning that any student caught flouting the directive “shall receive the necessary sanctions and response”. We suggest that, that meant beating by the Security as they knew best.
b. As the “University Management” subsequently explains in its press release, morale (Jama as was previously known) is simply a harmless event of singing and dancing as a way of releasing stress at the end of a hectic academic week, but also to build camaraderie among the students. A morale session is usually contained in one small location, following the ban on processions on campus, an order that is a blatant violation of the constitutional right to free movement and assembly. You would see from this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQMSzDzb-es&t=3999s that before common sense and reasoning went out of the door, at the instance of VC Obiri Danso and his “University Management” morale sessions were healthily encouraged and controlled to the enjoyment of the entire University community which has been a case for the over 50 years since KATANGA has been in existence.
c. The University Management in their statement now claims that there was no ban but only a suspension which was put in place because of some attempted arson in the hall on October 12, 2018. It is worthy of note that KATANGA was the only hall where this unconstitutional ban was being enforced, because morale continues in other parts of the university. The University’s Public Relations Officer, Kwame Yeboah has subsequently clarified to Accra-based Joy FM that, with the placement of female students in Katanga hall, the University felt that “morale” could disturb the peace; morale is therefore “one of the banned activities on campus”. The lies can be clearly seen on the web. https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2018/October- 21st/one-injured-11-others-arrested-as-student-clash-with-knust-security.php.
d. Following the afore-mentioned notice/directive, students of KATANGA decided to suspend their planned morale. Instead, and given that plans and logistics were already in place, they decided to hold a peaceful vigil in the forecourt outside the hall’s entrance. The vigil was partly to draw attention to a repeated pattern of abuse and intimidation aimed at students of KATANGA.
e. A handful of male and female students who had arrived early were socializing at the forecourt outside the hall’s entrance, when they were asked by a few security men to leave the scene. This is the same location where food vendors are situated and all students across the university congregate in the evenings to buy/eat their dinner. The students therefore refused the clearly unlawful order, but avoided any confrontation with the security personnel. Minutes afterwards security personnel numbering over 20, in combat gear, armed with batons, canes, and Tasers (we did not know they come so easy to anyone in Ghana), and claiming to be “only carrying out an order from above”, pounced on the defenseless students, brutalized them, and arrested several of them. The students were transferred to the Police cells and denied bail, again on “orders from above”. Other victims of the wanton assault included students from other halls who were visiting the mosque behind KATANGA to pray.
f. As a result of this unprovoked attack on students, one person was hospitalized for serious head injuries after allegedly being hit by batons and dragged on the ground for many meters. Many students remain traumatized, with as many as eleven students and one alumnus still trying to recover from the horror of being placed in police cells for more than 24 hours with absolutely no basis.
g. It is a shameful lie for the University to claim that any security officer was attacked. Many witnesses, including the food vendors who were present, have confirmed that the attack on students by the security personnel was totally unprovoked. The area in question is under heavy CCTV surveillance, and so for the sake of transparency, we dare the University Management to release the full footage to the public immediately.
h. Following the incidents at the forecourt of the hall, the students peacefully marched to the security post and subsequently to the police station in solidarity with their arrested colleagues. At no point in time did anybody attack the security post or barracks, and so we dare the University again to produce the evidence to back their claim. In fact, it turns out that there was an Angel FM journalist who followed the incidents all through the, catalogued the events and was brutalised too. Security personnel reportedly confiscated the camera of this journalist, but he managed to capture a lot of the incidents on audio and video tape that is currently in the possession of radio stations in Kumasi. https://mynewsghana.net/knust-security-men-beat- angel-fm-reporter-filmed-brutality-students/
i. Following from these incidents which were heavily captured in the media over the weekend and the agitation arising from the arrest and detention of the students at the behest of the Vice Chancellor, tension on campus was rising with social media (the preserve of the current crop of students) set abuzz. On Sunday, the SRC not the Association, announced a peaceful demonstration on campus for Monday which was supported by the main KNUST Alumni and other student organs in the University and the Country at large who were now waking up to their responsibilities. It is worth mentioning that, none of these groups had supported our earlier calls for action to stamp out the brutalities and unjust treatments as we have enumerated in 2 supra. https://hypercitigh.com/knust-updates/knust-alumni-to-join-students-in- tomorrows-demonstration/
j. To Fellows, the tipping point was the text message issued to all students by the Dean of Students Dr Gariba (DOS). Yes the University gestapo has access to every student through a dubious monopolistic sim card scheme they have arranged with Vodafone and compulsorily forced on every student under the guise of providing access to university services. The message from the DOS was “The attention of the VC has been drawn to a boycott of lectures by students on Monday 22nd October 2018. You’re reminded that attendance at lectures is compulsory and the decision to attend lectures or not remains an individual affair. Lectures will be at the lectures as usual and you are entreated to disregard any contrary information” This was clearly in disrespect of the SRC as the main mouthpiece of the students and also all the other organs who should be properly seen as stake holders in the affairs of the university. It appears to have been the last straw as students felt unheard and not listened to when their leadership had made a clear statement as to their intentions. For want happened next, the lawyers say “res ipsa loquitur”!
We now turn to some of the bogus and salacious matters raised in the press statement by the University.
a. The demonstration was organised by KNUST students who are old enough to decide for themselves what they want and do not want. It is preposterous to somehow suggest that the Association put circa 45,000 students to a demonstration because they had no minds of their own. If however, blaming it on the Association is a way of saving the students from the next round of victimisation and rustications, then the Association should have broad shoulders to take it on for our brothers and sisters as we have always done from when the hall was occupied in 1963. Pin it on us if it makes you happy but let the students go.
b. The Association did not even organise a taxi full of its members to be on campus on Monday let alone organise buses. The University has riddled the school with CCTV cameras so we dare them to show Ghanaians any bus which came on campus within a week (a month or a year even if they choose) before Monday and which had members of the Association. Your lies and alternative facts would show you up for the faceless “University Management” that you are.
c. We are aware that fire was reported in Katanga which affected five rooms in the main hall occupied by females. Coincidentally this fire miraculously happened the same day as the Security tried to plant the damaged car as stated in 2f supra. Pressmen from Kessben and other media houses had asked to gain access to the rooms to ascertain what had happened but the University prevented them from doing so and quickly refurbished the rooms. What did they have to hide or protect? You would have thought that with their avowed position that Katangees are somewhat savages, it should have made them bring the whole world to the hall to see for themselves the purported mayhem that we were visiting on the hall but no! It is worth pointing out that the fire occurred to parts of the rooms facing the courtyard within the hall and therefore it could only have been started by someone who had access into the hall. For those who don’t know, to keep out the “unwanteds” from the hall starting from this academic year, the hall can only be accessed by residents or authorised persons because the University has installed card access systems at the entrance, has the hall riddled with CCTV and has mobile security guards always stationed at the front and at the porters lodge. It is also worth mentioning that the University had previously blocked all fire exits to the hall leaving only the porters lodge as an escape route for the over 1000 students in the hall. Who cares about health and safety in a University of Science & Technology! We dare the University to respond to the matters we have raised and bring evidence in the form of CCTV to point to the real culprits in the setting of this fire. The lies would not stick!
d. The University laughably has sought to link the events of 22nd October 2018 to the decision to convert KATANGA into a mixed hall. This has been their modus operandi for weeks. Since late September, the ladies have settled peacefully in the hall without any issues. In fact, several ladies participated fully and peaceably in the demonstrations that occurred on 22nd October; a few ladies were reportedly arrested. We have consistently warned that the decision to convert KATANGA into a mixed hall has nothing to with providing accommodation to female students. If it were, more halls/hostels will be constructed. If it were, Africa Hall will be expanded, not mixed to reduce the number of female residents. If it were, women in already mixed halls will be increased. This short-sighted decision to convert KATANGA is just an underhand attempt to kill student activism to the point where students are cowed into submission to every caprice and whim of the autocratic leaders of the university.
e. Concerning the Alumni Stephen Otoo who was unfortunately caught up in the events of Friday we claim responsibility for his being there and stand by him to the hilt. Katanga does not leave its members to fend for themselves when in the duty of the hall and we shall use all our energies, resources and any possible means to defend his honour and his rights from the false charges that the University now seeks to level against him. The Police have to this date flatly refused to give him his charge sheet so we could afford him the much needed prompt cutting egde legal assistance.
f. Turning to explain why Stephen Otoo was unfortunately caught up, I respectfully refer you to paragraph 2a and 2g supra. The Matron with the agreement of the Vice Chancellor and his apologists, appear to have resolved very early on that they were not going to allow these Katanga equipment in the hall or on KNUST land. We have had these equipment since the 1960s without incident so perhaps it is only fair to say that in the eyes of the powers that be, these had metamorphosed into weapons of mass destruction this academic year. That was why the Matron threw them out under the guise of cleaning the windowless room in which they were stored, for human occupation. On each Friday night when the students had Jama sessions, this equipment was the first that the Security went for. Indeed on the day in question mentioned in 2f supra, they impounded the Uber taxi as it was on its way out of campus under the guise of the taxi having parked illegally. The Association therefore decided at a point that since the equipment did not belong to any year group of Katangees, they had to take ownership of them and take it to the students when they needed them provided that one of our members was on hand to supervise and return the equipment after the session. This was the reason why Stephen Otoo as a Fellow, ever came into the picture. He was to be on hand to be a guide to the students and to ensure that the equipment was taken care off. No amount of lies by the University would change the truth of this situation which is supported by facts on the ground. On the night when he was arrested, he had just gotten out of his car and the drums were still inside. We dare the University to prove otherwise with CCTV evidence which they no doubt have.
g. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, Katangees have been fighting the tyranny of successive Vice Chancellors for years so we have learnt a thing or two about evidence and their lies. We have long learnt the fact that we would not be listened to because in Ghana, we are the nobodys without the clout that a University and Vice Chancellors, other apologists command. Our school motto is “nyansap? w?sane no badwenma”. We have become badwenmas and have “sanied” the nyansap? and so we have videos, audios, pictures, and witness statements from various sources from the Vice Chancellor right down to the least of his apologists, students, pressmen and members of the public to support all the matters we have raised in this release. Most are in the public domain and available thanks to the wonder of social media but we have others up our sleeves which we would release if the need arises. We also by this dare the University to make publicly available any of its CCTV images of any involvement of a member of the Association in any matter as they alleged or at all.
h. We ave intriguing questions for the University tough;
Why are they not organizing a proper press conference so that their lies can be cross examined in the full glare of the media? Why resort to the monologues of a press release? You know they are lies don’t you? We dare you to hold a press conference or arrange a joint platform where we would present our sides for the neutrals to judge. Truth stands!
Where were the police or the Security on Monday morning? They were on hand at the drop of a hat to brutalise students previously but when damage was being perpetrated, they were nowhere to be found. Was that a deliberate ploy by you to bring in rented hoodlums to cause damage and so you could pin it on the students? Where were you on the day? You are the administrators of the University paid at public expense to do just that and like the cowards that you have proven to be, you abandoned ship so that your surrogates could cause havoc for you to pin on the Association. Truth stands!
To conclude, we affirm that we remain in the service of oppressed students nationwide in keeping with the spirit of Katangeeism that has been passed down to us since 1963. We rest not and so Katanga and Katangeeism would not die. As Elie Wiesel said, “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” We owe this to our hall, our country and to a future of leaders who are free and not cowed by bullying and victimisation at an institution which is supposed to the cradle of academic learning.
We hereby state that we encourage Ghanaians to scrutinise this statement, make enquieries as to the truth or otherwise of the matters stated herein; from students and members of the KNUST community. We particularly want Ghanainas to directly put questions to the University about what we have stated herein so they would give you a response beyond the monolgues they are using the hide the truth. May you be the judges of low depths to which KNUST has sunk under VC Obiri Danso. We must not allow this to continue.
We Rest Not – No Tension!