Students Riot at Dilla University
Yesterday, November 17, 2010, rioting students, demanding a search for the body of a drowned student, interrupted classes at Dilla University. According to our reporter, a number of injured students were transported to the town’s hospital. The report also indicated that the rioters demonstrated their anger by breaking glass windows and damaging other university property. Members of the Federal police force are now stationed on the campus following the riot.
A university lecturer told Addis Neger’s reporter that the riot broke out after University administration refused to search for the body of a third year history student named Bizunesh Birhanu. According to students, the river drowning occurred while she was traveling to the new university campus, known as “Semra”, located 20 minutes walking distance away from the main university. The student’s anger mounted when the university failed to save her life or to find her body despite the repeated attempts of lifeguards.
According to the lecturer, the university administration is still searching for her body using local swimmers, but the lifeguards were unable to properly search for the body due to the local superstition that believes the river, known as “Walleme”, possesses divine power. According to this belief, the river claims one person every year as a sacrifice.
A member of the student council explained to our reporter that the students began a hunger strike and refused to attend classes starting yesterday morning. They demanded that the university administration devote proper attention to the issue. The riot was incited during lunchtime, when students who were not part of the strike tried to have their lunch. The two groups of students started to fight and many were injured as a result.
By mid afternoon afternoon, security officers and members of the federal police members had regained some control over the campus, but the riot took another twist. Uniting together, the two groups of students opposed the intrusion of security forces onto their campus, forcing the police officers to slowly retreat behind the campus gates.
The students continued their strike into the evening, demonstrating their anger with shouts and song. Fully armored police forces were heavily present around the campus of the university. The drowned student, Bizunesh Birhanu, was a student from the Oromia region of “Wollega”.