Crumbling DR Congo’s Goma University stands up to the State | Africa | DW | 17.06.2015
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Crumbling DR Congo’s Goma University stands up to the State

The University of Goma in eastern Congo was once a status symbol for the whole country - today it is a symbol of state failure and viewed as a stronghold of resistance to President Kabila's controversial third term bid.

A painting of a crossed out gun hangs on the University stairway with the message, 'use of weapons prohibited'. The smell of urine filters through the dark corridors. For years, there has been no running water for the toilets.

The four-story building constructed in the 1980s used to be as a status symbol for the whole country. That was in the days of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, at that time the country was known as Zaire.

Today, 20 years after the end of the civil war, the university in the eastern Congolese provincial capital Goma, has become a symbol of decline for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Deep cracks run through the crumbling walls, bullet holes are visibly clear on the building. Most windows are shattered and when it rains, it drips through the ceiling.

Electrical studies without electricity?

The Student Council has an office on the first floor. A light bulb hangs from the ceiling but the electricity has been cut off for years. Student representative Kambere Lumumba is in his third semester at the faculty of Electrical Engineering.

Front view of University of Goma in eastern DRC.

Students of Goma University complain of neglect by Kinshasa

He says he has been fighting to improve the conditions in the campus by complaining to the administration and even to the government. "But they all pretend as if we do not exist. The fact is that we are living in inhumane conditions."

Around 16,000 students attend Goma Campus daily. There is no single functioning toilet, no student canteen and not enough seats. "But every time we complain, the government accuses us of being pro-opposition. This is typical of our country," Lumumba told DW.

Despite the poor conditions, students have to pay a lot of money for the study. "We can not accept this. That is why we will continue to complain until those in charge understand our suffering," Lumumba said.

Civil war effect

Last year, the campus was repainted dark blue - the color of a telecommunications company. The firm had indentified the university as one of the tallest building in the city and paid for the cost of painting it in return for advertising space.

The effects of the 20-year-old civil war continue to permeate the academic halls. Students are divided along ethnic groups.

Teacher and students in a lecture hall aínside Univeristy of Goma.

Lessons in Goma campus go on despite lack of electricity and enough seats

Student spokesman Lumumba said he strives to unite the students so they can work together for a common goal. "People always say that the campus is where the problems facing eastern DRC started, but like everywhere else in the country, the chaos is being instigated by criminal leaders," Lumumba said. "We want to unite all the students and settle our internal conflicts. We do not want the campus to become a battlefield, but a scientific institution."

Protests, arrests and deaths

Nevertheless, the University was this year the venue of violence. In January, the students joined the anti-government protests. They took to the streets to demonstrate against the poor study conditions, corruption and mismanagement across the entire country.

"We wanted a revolution similar to that in Bukina Faso," Luc Lukula told DW. Lukula a former student representative was one of the leaders of the protest movement in Goma. "The police cracked down on us heavily. Officially they reported four deaths but we counted eleven dead bodies," Lukula said. "A government can not just shoot people because they are protesting."

Despite the protests, the injured and dead, nothing has changed at the University of Goma. On the contrary, the student representatives were arrested and reportedly tortured by the secret service.

A man watches as a car burns on the street in Kinshasa during protests against the government.

Anti-government protests in Kinshasa killed more than 10 people

Since January, the leader of the nationwide protests Fred Bauma is still languishing in detention without charges in the capital Kinshasa.

The government of President Joseph Kabila now wants to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term. Lukula said the students believe that's not a good idea. "People say that we are radical but we are not. We need a new system. And that starts with education," Lukula said.

Next year, elections are scheduled to take place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the current constitution, President Joseph Kabila can not run a third term but the students are afraid that he will try to force himself on the ballot like Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza. If that were to happen, the students say they will call for mass protests.

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