Tensions in Togo despite release of student protestors

(iStock)
(iStock)

Lome - University students in Togo on Tuesday vowed to continue their protests for better teaching conditions, after three days of demonstrations and clashes with police that saw eight arrested.

Seven of the students who were detained after campus protests at the University of Lome turned violent last week were released from custody on Monday evening.

They were accused of "rebelliousness and destruction of public property" and appeared before a court in the capital Lome.

"The judge ruled that they were not guilty because there was no material evidence and released them," one of the students' lawyers, Dodji Apevon, told AFP.

But the eighth student who led the protests, Folly Satchivi, did not attend the hearing on health grounds. His case will be heard on June 26.

Honore Honore Agoudzo, the head of the Togo students movement MEET, said: "We demand his immediate release and we will not rest until he is freed."

Basile Amenuveve, general-secretary of the Togolese students rights league (LTDE), added: "We will not back down from our demands.

"No student can accept to study in the present conditions."

Police presence 

Students clashed with police last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday following a protest by the LTDE.

The university authorities said the group did not have permission to hold on-campus events and police broke up the demonstration using teargas.

The Togolese human rights league condemned what it said was the "barbaric, primitive, defamatory and uncivilised repression" of the students.

The head of the institution, Dodzi Komla Kokoroko, on Monday said he was "available to talk with the student groups to find an appropriate solution to their problems".

The students were demanding that new classrooms be built as well as an increase in monthly allowances from 12 000 CFA francs to 20 000 CFA francs ($21-$34).

They also want student grants increased from 18 000 CFA francs to 30 000 CFA francs.

There was a visible police presence on campus on Tuesday, with a dozen police officers watching the entrance to the administrative buildings of the university.

Overcrowding 

The University of Lome was opened in September 1970 and has than 40 000 students.

Students complained that the current situation made studying impossible.

"It's hard, really hard to study on the Lome campus," said 20-year-old Edem, a first-year student in English, who is living with her elder sister instead of in student digs.

"I'm going to drop out. It's an ordeal. I'm going to learn a trade instead," she said.

Another student described the atmosphere as gloomy because of the tensions and increased security presence.

But others said it was the dilapidated state of the institution that needed improving.

"The amphitheatres and other classrooms are often overcrowded," said Elie, a 27-year-old law student.

"Some students even have to sit on the floor in the aisles or on pieces of bricks to follow lessons. Others bring their own chairs into class."

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