The University of Liberia, fondly called the macrocosm of the larger Liberian society, has been rocked by repeated violence not only between state security forces and students but also between rival student groups. The situation is hardly dying down despite the unprecedented goodwill from the current political administration. Recent signs have been that the uproar was picking up its usual unsavory steams, prompting the administration to declare students politics banned until otherwise ordered. While some Liberians think this was necessary to ward off altercations and melees hovering over the horizon between politically entrenched forces at the University of Liberia, there are some who think the ban order reverberates with despotic tendencies of the past. Amongst these is an internationally acclaimed Liberian scientist who was once a student leader at the University. The Analyst report
One of Africa’s prominent global scientist and former student leader, Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan, who is currently based in the United States has denounced the recent temporary ban on student politics on the campuses of the state owned University of Liberia.
“The recent ban placed on student political and democratic activities by the University of Liberia administration is illegal, violates freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and academic freedom, and should be rescinded by the University authorities and the Government of Liberia,” Dr. Nyan says.
In a recent interview, Dr. Nyan stated that, “it is shameful that the University authorities that should be protecting academic freedom are the same ones openly violating such sacred rights, but protecting government officials who are allergic to free speech and the critical press.”
On January 11, 2019 the administration of the University of Liberia (UL) issued a press release banning all student political gatherings and rallies on the campuses of the University of Liberia. The UL statement also warned that, “Insubordination shall not be tolerated, hostile and disrespectful behavior towards university authorities, government officials, visitors or university personnel and the use of provocative, abusive or other obscene language on campus whether against government officials, university employees, other students or otherwise is prohibited.”
“As you can see in the vague press release it [UL administration] issued, the University authorities took an arbitrary decision and made a grave error by banning student democratic activities when the students committed absolutely no act that violated the university handbook,” Dr. Nyan said. “In essence, the University authorities by their actions have wrongly applied the handbook, violated the University Charter, and violated the Liberian Constitution,” he added.
Dr. Nyan, who is also a human rights activist, added that, “activities such as freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly are not against the university handbook; in fact, they are guaranteed by the Constitution of Liberia, hence the University should respect its own handbook and the Laws of the land.”
Dougbeh Nyan, a former national student leader, further asserted that, “the ban is a direct assault on the critical voices in the student community and an attack on the democratic progress our country has made over the last 15 years,” adding that, “over the years, it should be noted that all governments that attacked the Liberian students and suppressed the press have never survived to tell the story.”
“The Liberian people and all democratic forces should rise up and express solidarity with the student community in opposing this ban, if not, the political parties could be the next victims of this government,” he noted.
The renowned scientist further noted that, “the present government of Liberia appears to be following the dictatorial play book of Msgt. Samuel K. Doe who repeatedly banned student politics in the 1980s using Military Decrees and Executive Orders, banned all other national political parties, and silenced the free press, but was always met with stiff resistance from [us] students and the Liberian people.”
Dougbeh Chris Nyan served as the 1987/88 Chairman of the Student Unification Party at the University of Liberia when the then President Samuel Doe banned all student democratic associations. He also served as Deputy Secretary General and Acting President of the Liberia National Students Union in the late 1980s.
In 1988 when the President Samuel K. Doe government in collaboration with the University authorities banned student political organizations and political parties, “we responded in total defiance and reminded the government that the ban was unconstitutional and violated student rights which are part and parcel of universal human rights,” noted Dr. Nyan, adding that, “we organized democratic protests against the ban in defense of our rights and for socio-economic justice for the Liberian people.”
The 169th Independence Day National Orator, Dr. Nyan also rhetorically asked, “why this present government refuses to learn from history, but continues to fan trouble for itself remains very baffling. One would think that a government that is marred by numerous allegations of corruption, constitutional violations, and economic problems would be paying attention to properly running the states; instead, it is undermining good governance, antagonizing the press and slowly destroying its own existence.”
In his concluding statement, Dr. Nyan said, “I am in total solidarity with press freedom, women’s rights, students’ rights, and encourage the student community to be united to vigorously address the current ban with every peaceful and legal means necessary. Once again, I call on the University authorities and the Liberian Government to rescind the ban so as to avert an impending chaos and upheaval.”
Dougbeh Christopher Nyan is a world renowned scientist and medical doctor from Liberia. As student leader and studying Zoology and Chemistry at the University of Liberia, he was expelled from the University from the former Liberian President Samuel Doe in 1988 for leading protests against the government’s ban on student and national politics, crack down on press freedom, and human rights violations. He was later arrested along with several other student leaders and imprisoned by the government. Upon his release from prison, he lived his exiled years in Germany where he studied medicine at the famous Charité Medical Faculty of the Humboldt University of Berlin. Dougbeh is an inventor of a diagnostic test for infectious diseases that has won numerous Innovation Awards and recently awarded a United States Patent.