Ivory Coast: First victory for students at University of Cocody

An important step to push the struggle against neo-liberal policies further

The withdrawal of the “university police” and the replacement of Minister Bakongo represent a significant victory for the student struggle (see our previous article on http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6677), on the campus of the University of Cocody and in Ivory Coast in general.

Now, students will be much freer to organize themselves as they wish, and conduct their own activities on the campus. Students also demonstrated their maturity and the quality of their organization; they attracted to their cause the active support of the teachers – not just on the campus – and of part of the population. The student organizations that have played the most important role in the struggle have been significantly strengthened – including the ’Liges’ (Student and School Student League), a left wing union that works closely with the ’Cici’ (Coalition of the Enraged of Ivory Coast).

It all started with a statement by the Minister during an official meeting , in which the latter said he did not want to take the student movement into consideration. It was then that the Cici, under the influence of supporters of the CWI in Ivory Coast, met with various student unions in a united front (Liges, Fesci, Coercip) to organize a response, which eventually triumphed through unity in struggle and especially the support of the teaching staff (through their union, the CNEC). The process of struggle has also gotten rid of some corrupt union officials. All students arrested have been released.

However, we must realize that this victory is only the first step that allows us to go further, not a decisive conquest.

Let us also remember that the conflict with the university police had not happened for no reason, but was triggered by the student struggle for demands which are still unsatisfied, on the scandal of the university residences, the absence of means, the consequences of the false rehabilitation of the campus, higher registration fees, etc.

All these faults were not the result of one minister, Bakongo. While he is a particularly rude and dishonest individual that we are happy to see leaving his post (although it is not a big deal for him since he will now exercise a new public function), the policy of Bakongo is the same neo-liberal policy pursued by the entire government. This is an austerity policy, intended to restrict the access of the poor to public services by promoting a bourgeois elite policy of privatizations and cuts, with total disregard for the people, and above all established by a clique of real thieves.

Also, this policy is determined not so much by the programme of the RDR [the ruling party], but by the very nature of the Ivorian capitalist class and by the system of capitalism in its phase of global economic crisis, as a result of imperialist decay. This is to say that we should not have any illusions in a ministerial change. The new minister will perhaps look nicer, more attentive, less involved in various scandals, but this does nothing to change the policy that they will be forced to implement. The ministers of the RHDP [the ruling coalition] are only executors of the policies dictated by the IMF and imperialism in general.

However, the arrival of a new minister in a context where the regime seeks a "relaxing period" means that students now benefit from a short respite. It is absolutely necessary to use in order to organize around demands that are important to them:

  • A public investigation conducted by elected representatives of students and teachers to know where the money for the rehabilitation went
  • A genuine rehabilitation of the campus under the democratic control of students and teachers, according to specifications and priorities established by them: building of new auditoriums, toilet facilities, student canteen, electric bus, wi-fi rooms, labs, library, etc.
  • Stop rising tuition fees: free education for all!
  • For decent student housing!
  • Raise the teachers’ wages, for massive recruitment of new teachers on all campuses
  • Massive public investment in the ’Sotra’ (Abidjan’s transport company) with initiation of new buses and hiring of many drivers, mechanics, etc.
  • A national policy of price controls to stop the rising cost of living.

We must also do everything now to spread the movement to secondary schools and build bridges between the unions on the campus of Cocody and those of other universities in the country.

Furthermore, these measures cannot be implemented without substantial financial resources -luckily, our country is extremely rich, we just need to regain control of our resources:

  • Nationalization of the key sectors of the economy: agro-food industries, mining, energy, ports and railways, under democratic control and management of elected representatives of workers
  • Implementation of an ambitious development plan for the industry and public services to get the country out of underdevelopment and provide jobs for all – for true emancipation based on genuine socialist policies, and not the crap of corrupt politicians, from the RHDP or from the LMP [opposition].

Of course, all this cannot be achieved without organising a struggle on a mass scale. Students by themselves do not represent any economic power in society and have no weight as such in the context of social struggle. This is why students need to think about how they can link up their struggle with that of the workers and the poor people of Ivory Coast and West Africa (for example, against the high cost of living, for a free and quality education for all, etc) build a genuine popular power nationally and in the region.

We believe that the Cici, and the CWI in Ivory Coast, has shown they can be important tools for workers and youth in this struggle.

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April 2014