Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has, in recent times, made headlines for violent student clashes.
The Unity Hall, popularly referred to as Conti, and the University Hall (Katanga) have become notorious for their roles in these violent activities.
In this report, Fact Check Ghana outlines the various clashes that have taken place on the KNUST campus in the last 10 years.
- Conti -Katanga clash, 2022
It was only a hall week celebration, but it turned out to be nothing worth celebrating.
In the evening of Thursday, August 18, 2022, residents of University Hall clashed with affiliates of the Unity Hall when the students of University Hall were said to have attempted using a route in front of the Unity Hall during their “Zulu Processions”.
History has it that the two rival halls, for more than a decade, agreed never to go beyond the Peace Junction during such processions, but the Zulu processionists seemed to have flouted this, resulting in the clash with their colleagues in Unity Hall.
Videos of the clash showed scores of rival students pelting stones at one another. In the chaotic scenes, vehicles were smashed and other properties were destroyed, too.
This has caused the university to suspend the ongoing hall and Students Representative Council (SRC) week celebrations after an emergency meeting on Friday, August 19.
The university has also suspended the massing up of students for the popular ‘morale’, a team spirit and cheer-leading activity executed through singing or chanting, dancing, stamping of the feet and hand clapping. It is accompanied by drumming and the use of other musical instruments.
- The SRC vetting brouhaha, 2021
In July 2021, the KNUST SRC vetting process at the Great Hall was disrupted when supporters of two SRC presidential aspirants believed to be affiliates of Unity and University Halls clashed.
It was unclear what started the mayhem between the two groups, but this resulted in the destruction of property on the premises. The incident left some students injured.
- KNUST declared a security zone in 2019
The Ashanti Regional Security Council, in September 2019, declared the KNUST campus a security zone.
The build-up of tension was alarming such that the Security Council said some alumni were instigating their members and students to engage in activities that would disturb academic work.
Why did this happen?
The Mixed Hall Opposition
In 2018, the decision by the management of KNUST to convert all of its traditional halls to mixed halls did not sit well with the students and even some alumni, causing strong opposition.
Management of the university then banned “morale” and processions which they believed had consistently resulted in clashes and brawls on campus.
However, some students did not heed the directive.
On Friday, October 19, 2018, there was a clash between some students of the university and the security men after their “morale” activities.
The students, who were said to have blocked the entrances to the school, thus, preventing other students from entering, said one of their colleagues was manhandled by the security in the process.
This incident resulted in the arrest of eleven students.
The SRC protest
The following Monday, October 22, 2018, the Executive Council of the SRC planned a protest to register its displeasure against what it called student brutality on campus.
Vehicles belonging to both staff and non-staff of the university community were smashed and some were also burnt. Other motorbikes and bicycles, louvre blades, signages, streetlights, and parts of the university’s administration block were destroyed.
The military and personnel from the Ghana Police Service were deployed to restore order on the campus. The university was shut down. The governing council of the university was also dissolved and an interim one was sworn in.
The university was reopened after 14 days.
In October 2017, news reports showed that 23 students were suspended for hooting at a female student who visited the Unity Hall. The students, who were believed to be in their first year, were punished for misconduct to deter others.
Hooting and shaming females colleagues has happened on several occasions at the hall though it is prohibited by the University.
- The stabbing of Unity Hall Student, 2016
In February 2016, a student of Unity Hall was attacked and stabbed in the back by some residents of the University Hall when the two factions clashed.
The incident happened around the Great Hall and left about 18 other students injured.
It was not clear what exactly led to the clash, but the students said the long-standing rivalry between the two halls caused the clash.
Another student who was affiliated to the University Hall was also attacked and stabbed by some students believed to be affiliates of Unity Hall. This happened after a confrontation between the two parties. This was the impact of tension created due to the earlier stabbing incident.
Again, the immediate cause of the brawl was not clear, but the long-standing history of hall rivalry was the fire that stoked it.
In 2014, Unity Hall and University Hall clashed when they organised a Peace March/Gala at the Paa Joe Stadium on the university campus to resolve their long-standing rivalry which had resulted in the many clashes.
The violent peace march resulted in a student sustaining injuries to his eye. Some other students were also hurt.
- Students clash, 2013
A clash between students of Unity Hall and Katanga left one student injured. The cause of this incident was not clear but a student was reported to have been hurt in the eye in the process.
The Unity and University halls clashed again in 2012 around the Peace Junction. It was not clear what triggered the clash but some alumni who were students in 2012 who spoke with Fact-check Ghana in August 2022 said they believed the rivalry between the two halls
Fact-Check Ghana did not find reports of student clashes in 2015 and 2020. In the year 2020 for instance, Schools were shut down and academic work was disrupted for a greater part of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This, perhaps, accounted for the lack of clashes in the KNUST, which has become a disturbing ritual in recent times.
Though the university has over the years punished perpetrators of violent clashes, vandalism and misconduct by students persist.
The writer of this report, Victoria Enyonam Adonu, is a Fellow of the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellowship at the Media Foundation for West Africa.