Fighting destroys Ivory University

Fighting in Côte d’Ivoire has claimed a new victim: the University of Abobo-Adjamé, where the country’s pharmacists, dentists and doctors all take their first courses.

“About 70% of the campus has been destroyed,” said university president Germain Gourène, who claimed the violence was deliberate. Trouble erupted after the university, based in the economic capital of Abidjan, asked the United Nations peacekeepers to remove several tanks from the campus.

Much of the fighting between the army, controlled by incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and rebel supporters of presidential election winner Alassane Ouattara, happened on March 21 while South Africans were marking Human Rights Day.

“I found the carcasses of some of the computer servers,” Gourène said. ”They took care to pull them apart, to dismantle them. This shows that this was targeted and that I do not understand at all.

”In addition, all paper and electronic records had been vandalised and the university would not be able to authenticate degrees or confirm payments, he said. ”We can buy all the hardware but where do we find the data?” Gourène asked.

”The university in my opinion can- not can be aimed at like this. This is a place where each can have his political party, but we have no special ties with a particular party.”

Most PhD students have halted their studies. A few have transferred to other institutions to complete their studies. But students and lecturers at all Côted’Ivoire universities are battling to cope with the uncertainty since last year’s disputed elections.

“I have to make sure the town is calm before I leave home,” said Armand Diama, a physics lecturer at the nearby University of Cocody, which has 50 000 students. ”Sometimes we see gunfights when we are in our offices.”

Diama told Research Africa. ”It’s terrible. We don’t have peace of mind.” Most of the lecturers at the Uni- versity of Abobo-Adjamé now stay at their homes, only venturing on to campus to be paid their salaries in cash, as the banks have been closed. But Gourène is not giving up. He uses his cellphone to run what is left of the University of Abobo- Adjamé. ”It is beyond a budget crisis. It is an S.O.S,” he said.

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Christina Scott
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