CAR

Central African Republic: Calm returns to Bangui after student demonstrations

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BANGUI, 10 January (IRIN) - University students returned to classes on Friday, a day after battling police in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, over the government's failure to pay them their scholarship allowances.
"The government has not paid our scholarships since last academic year," one student who took part in the demonstration told IRIN on Thursday.

The students burnt types and wood on the streets and stoned passing cars, even those taking delegates to a ministerial conference of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States. Police and the presidential special battalion dispersed the demonstrators by firing tear gas and gunshots into the air.

A Bangui newspaper, Le Confident, reported on Friday that police had shot dead two students during the protest, a charge that the director of cabinet at the Ministry of Higher Education denied. "This is not true at all, because if they had been killed, the students would have continued demonstrating, and more violently," Francois Bandio, the official, told IRIN.

Minister of Higher Education Timonleon Mbaikoua said Thursday on state-owned Radio Centrafrique that the demonstration had been motivated by matters other than the students' scholarship claims. He did not elaborate.

Each scholarship holder is entitled to receive 90,000 francs CFA (US $138.46) every three months, and one-third of the 7,000 students at the University of Bangui are scholarship holders. Students and lecturers have demonstrated repeatedly over money issues. Lecturers, like other civil servants, are owed over two years' worth of pay arrears.

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