Calm after boycott

June 22, 2001

After four months of boycotts by students, an uneasy calm has settled on the National University in Niamey, capital of Niger.

Plain-clothes police mingle with students. Security agents have orders to arrest any suspected members of a pro-Iraqi organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, that is believed to be behind a confrontation in February between students and security agents.

The crisis erupted when President Mohamed Tanja ordered the university to close student hostels and convert them into classrooms and administration blocks.

Students were already boycotting classes because of non-payment of their state bursaries. President Tanja pleaded with leaders of the student union to return to lectures and promised to seek money to pay them. He blamed the non-payment on the fall in the price of uranium - Niger's main source of foreign earnings.

Worried at the risk of further protests, the government ordered the students to move out of their hostels and began converting them.

Students have been forced to look for accommodation in the city and landlords have cashed in by raising rents by more than 100 per cent.

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