Police fire bullets, teargas to break Chanco vigil

By Green Muheya, Nyasa Times

Malawi police fired bullets and teargas to break a vigil by students at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College (Chanco) in Zomba on Thursday when they were peacefully demonstrating that they have not been learning due to a stand-off over academic freedom.

A female student Maliyoni Mwenifumbo, 27,  was arrested but later released and Martin Likongwe, 38 was severely beaten by the cops and left him in a “critical condition.”

Students found two bullet shells at the campus which were fired by the armed-to-teeth cops who blocked students from going to the university office for a vigil about the state of affairs.

Under siege: Chanco

Police action comes at a time when  international human rights groups appealed for the security forces in the country to use restraint during protests to avoid repeating the use of excessive and lethal force that killed 19 people on July 20 nationwide demonstrations.

According to the newly elected Student’s Union President Patrick Phiri, they wanted to hold the vigil as one way to express their concerns over the ongoing impasse between the Chancellor College Academics Staff Union (Ccasu) and members of the University Council.

This comes in the wake that lecturers who are members of Ccasu have not returned to duty following the opening of the University close to two months ago.

The lecturers are insisting that they will only resume classes in among other things; the Council rescinds its decision to fire Ccasu members including Acting President Dr Jessie Kabwila Kapasula.

The council claimed that the four were relieved of their duties because they were not reporting for work.

The students union leader complained that their academic calendar has been greatly affected and that resources are going down the drain since the students returned to the school premises on July 4, 2011.

“Our academic calendar has been greatly affected and we feel that something should be done by the management of the institution so that this impasse should be resolved as quick as possible,” he said.

Lecturers  have vowed not to return to class unless their four colleagues — Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) acting president Dr. Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, CCASU legal advisor Dr. Garton Kamchedzera, CCASU Secretary General Franz Amin and the man at the centre of the controversy, Dr. Blessings Chinsinga. — who were fired by council, are reinstated.

Lecturers say they don’t want to return to classes when their colleagues who were fighting for academic freedom have been victimised with sacking.

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