Niger president meets protesting student leaders: report

File: Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou ordered the University of Niamey campus to reopen on Monday Photo: AFP / Boureima Hama

NIAMEY - Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou held talks with student leaders on Saturday in a bid to defuse the country's university crisis after a violent protest left one person dead, a student union head said.

"We met with the president and commitments were made to renew the dialogue between the USN (Union of Niger Scholars) and the government," Ousseini Sambo, USN secretary-general, said on public radio.

 Issoufou had ordered the University of Niamey campus to reopen on Monday, he added.

The campus has been closed since hundreds of unhappy students joined a demonstration on Monday, paralysing traffic by setting up barricades of tree trunks, blocks of stone and burning tyres, mainly on the right bank of the River Niger where the campus is located.

The protest sparked clashes with security forces who used tear gas to disperse protesters, who responded by throwing stones, according to images shown on local television.

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According to official figures, 313 people were arrested following that protest, some of whom have since been released.

One protester died after a fall which was not linked to police action, authorities said. An inquiry has been opened into the death.

The USN insists that the death of Mala Bagale, a third-year sociology student, was a result of her having been hit by a police teargas cannister.

A total of 109 people were injured,  88 protesters and 21 police.

Sambo said another meeting, with Prime Minister Brigi Rafini, would take place "to find adequate solution to the students' demands".

The students are calling for better living and studying conditions and the payment of grants.

"We have promised the president a spirit of appeasement," said Sambo, adding that the students told that those still detained following Monday's violence would be released "in the coming days."


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