5 students shot in clashes with police

Seven students including a woman who had lost consciousness are under observation at the university medical centre.

The protests at the Higher Institute of Applied Technology university came after administrators decided to alter the exchange rate applied to student fee payments, significantly increasing costs -- a decision that was swiftly reversed

Five students were shot and seriously hurt and 18 others injured Wednesday during clashes with police in DR Congo's capital Kinshasa during protests over tuition fees, a doctor said.

The protests at the Higher Institute of Applied Technology (ISTA) university came after administrators decided to alter the exchange rate applied to student fee payments, significantly increasing costs -- a decision that was swiftly reversed.

"We received 23 injured students of whom five had serious gunshot wounds and were transferred to the Kokolo military hospital," said a doctor at the university's medical centre.

An AFP correspondent saw seven students -- including a woman who had lost consciousness -- under observation at the university medical centre.

Kinshasa police chief told reporters later that "the police only used non-lethal weapons".

More than 100 police officers surrounded the university site and fired tear gas at classrooms.

"We are protesting against the application of an increased (exchange) rate decided by the academic authorities," said Patrick Makonzo, vice-president of ISTA's student union.

Administrators had moved to change the Congolese franc exchange rate applied to student fee payments, which are fixed at $300 for the year, and would have resulted in a real-terms fee increase of around 16 percent.

"In the interests of social harmony at ISTA we have decided to revise the exchange rate (back)," said ISTA director general Kasengedia Mutumbe.

Higher Education Minister Theophile Mbemba, said on public television late Wednesday that Mutumbe had been suspended from his duties pending an enquiry.

Anger at the university's initial decision led to several incidents including the burning of two vehicles and attacks on some nearby shopfronts.

"The police were called to re-establish order, disturbed by the students," said the officer in charge of the operation.

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