The Mounted Police Service in Lesotho is under fire for shooting and killing two student protesters who were part of a group protesting against the reduction of student grants at the National University of Lesotho last week.
The protest on 16 June was sparked after the National Manpower Development Secretariat cut students’ monthly stipends by more than 50%.
As a result, two students were shot and killed while numerous others were injured or arrested.
Human right activist Mokitimi Ts’osane from the Human Rights and Access to Justice Department, Transformation Resource Centre said the actions by the police were in violation of the UN basic principles on the use of firearms by law enforcement agents.
“The police violated a clear UN principle that states that law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms,” he added.
Student activists, who spoke to us, said the police opened fire on them without warning.
Students usually receive about R1 050 about $66 per month but for reasons not explained to them, they got about R500 about $31.
“We were not given a reason why the money was cut. It’s unfortunate because, as students, we have needs. We have to eat and buy other things that help us in our studies.
“What happened on that day was unfortunate for us as students. Such repression and violence from state actors have no place in a modern world,” said Student Union president Tumo Tsatsanyane.
Police called the incident “painful” and said they condemned what transpired and had instigated a full investigation into the matter.
They also asked for forgiveness.
The police service consoles those affected by this incident and asks for forgiveness as what happened was not expected.
The European Union station in Lesotho called on the police officers responsible to be brought to book.
A student representative from the University of Free State, Luvuyo Jacobs, said it was unfortunate that while it was a month of celebrating the youth in their resolve for a free society [June 16 marks the commemoration of National Youth Day in South Africa] just next door, the state was working against those gains.
“It is an unfortunate ordeal that in a month where young people ought to be celebrating and commemorating the milestone of the youth, we find ourselves in a predicament of harmless students losing their lives in the journey of transformation and activism,” he added.
“This calls for immediate intervention by the AU in terms of establishing policies that specifically speak to the protection of students,” said Nanso spokesperson Dorthea Nangolo.
The National University of Lesotho was established in 1975 and has an enrollment average of 9 000 students. It is one of Lesotho’s two government-run tertiary institutions, the other is Lerotholi Polytechnic.