Hazing News

African hazing mirrors USA hazing–same excuses rendered

5 Injured in Police, University Student Clashes

The New Times (Kigali)

11 December 2007
Posted to the web 11 December 2007

By Jean Luc Passie

Police in Bujumbura on Saturday clashed with students of the University of Burundi, the only public university in an operation aimed at flushing out students from their campus houses of residence.

The students went on rampage after Education minister, Dr Saidi Kibeya, had ordered the university closure and gave the students a 24-hour deadline to vacate the premises. Hundreds of policemen were deployed at the campus premises overnight.

“I can say that the operation was a success,” Police Spokesman, Pierre Channel Ntarabaganyi, said, adding that three policemen and two students were injured in the fracas. He dismissed earlier reports which claimed that one policeman was killed.

Gunshots were heard early in the morning and teargas canisters fired at the students. Ntarabaganyi said his men had to react “because one student shot with a pistol and another threw a hand grenade”. It is not clear whether the weapons were recovered from the rioting students.

The students were ordered to pack their belongings and go after they ignored orders to stop the so-called hazing ritual for new students. Senior students “exaggerated” the practice when they took two university officials hostage at the faculty science. The officials were trying to prevent them from abusing their new colleagues.

Hazing at the university is a traditional ‘welcoming’ ceremony which includes forcing new students to shave their heads and rolling them in the mud if they disobey.

The students held two officials for ten hours before security officials intervened. The teachers’ association subsequently issued a statement saying they would not resume teaching “until order and discipline are restored at the university”.

The students’ association, known as ASSER (Association des etudiants Rumuri) was banned, and over 20 students dismissed, among them the association’s chairman, Eric Nkenguburundi.

All students will have to apply for readmission and also vow to abide by the internal rules and regulations of the university.

The dismissed students, who are considered by the Education minister as ‘ring leaders’ of the riot, will not even be allowed to register in private universities which also fall under his ministry.  Bernard Baransaka, a social sciences student, told The New Times that the decision to close down the university was ‘untimely’.

‘It would have been better to discuss how the hazing practice could be improved, and where to do it,” he said, adding that the measure to close the university “could have severe consequences”.

Nkenguburundi defended the practice on a local radio station saying that the hazing practice teaches new students “the culture of mutual respect at the University”.

Both students however declined to comment on the incident at the faculty of Science which ignited the situation, only saying that a concerted dialogue would have helped diffuse the crisis.

The University Rector, Gaston Hakiza, said nearly 3, 500 residential students of an estimated 8, 600 will be affected by the decision.

Thousands of students could be seen waiting anxiously for transport on the highway near their residential homes with policemen in close attention.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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