Friday, March 11, 2011

Student Demonstrations

On Wednesday, I drove a colleague down to the Ghanaian border. She had to be there at 10 a.m. to meet someone who was going to take her on to Tamale. Knowing that there was road construction happening along that route, I said that we’d better leave a little earlier than normal. So at 7 a.m. we were on our way out of Ouaga and headed south.

We were nearly an hour late arriving at the border. About two thirds of the way down, at a town called Noberé, we ran into a huge crowd of students marching along the road. They were protesting the recent death of a fellow student in Koudougou, another town northwest of Ouaga. The student apparently died after being repeatedly beaten by local police. We found ourselves in the middle of several hundred students who walked slowly, often directly in front of our vehicle, and stopped occasionally to chant the name of their deceased colleague. A number of them carried rocks in their hands and eyed us with hostility. So we began smiling and waving and even rolling down the window to talk with several of them. Nearly everyone smiled and waved back. I drove slowly and ever so carefully so as not to hit anyone and provoke an incident.

About a kilometre (and half an hour) later, several of the students with whom we had been talking began to encourage the ones ahead of us to move aside and let us pass through. Thus we were eventually able to get past the demonstration and continue on our way. I wished I had a picture to show you, but didn't dare pull out my camera at the time!

Not all the student marches have been so peaceful. A march in a town further north (Ouahigouya) turned violent, resulting in numerous public buildings, including police headquarters, being set on fire and burned. The government has suspended all school classes in the entire country for the time being.

A march in downtown Ouaga today turned nasty, with students burning tires and destroying property. Riot police pursued them into local neighbourhoods, firing tear gas. We’ve been advised to not go anywhere near the downtown area today. Well, maybe I’ll finally catch up on my e-mails at the office!

1 comment:

Laura Dun said...

May the Lord keep you all safe. You were wise not to bring out the camera! :-)