So, What At All Is ‘Katanga’?

K1: Koo, what at all is behind this massive crisis at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology?

K2: Oh Koo, it all started at Katanga!!

K1: Kata-what?

Katanga! It’s the name of a hall of residence of KNUST. It has the reputation of being a bit economical with the observation of university rules!

-You mean the students there are unruly? Undisciplined? Why not come out and say it plainly? ‘Economical with the observation of rules?’ my foot!-

– Well, it depends. If you’ve been swotting all night and you still can’t get your head round a trigonometry exercise and someone says, “Thank God it’s Friday! Let’s go and boost our morale small with ogogoro!”?

– …And the bile in the imbibed stuff impels you to engage in activities normally associated with a palm-wine bar?

-Are you being undisciplined, or are you just ‘releasing’ pent-up energy sidelined when your body was charging and re-charging the neurons in your hippocampus?

Awirade ei! Tu bra!  [Good Lord! Let the big words flow!] I thought hippos lived in large rivers in East and Central Africa and not on any campus?

Hahahahaha! Very good. The English language has more uses for prefixes than you could possibly know of!

–        Come on, now — What is Katanga?

Ok — Katanga is a very volatile hall of residence on the campus of KNUST. As I alluded to, earlier, it has earned an unenviable reputation as a place that is a law unto itself. Just say ‘Katanga’ and…

–        But was Katanga behind the current closure of KNUST?

–         You might say that happenings at Katanga were a remote cause.

–        — Remote cause?

– Yes. The problem began at the beginning of 2018, when unrest broke out because  students were not happy that the university authorities wanted to convert two all-male halls of residence –  University Hall, (our Katanga) and Unity Hall (popularly known as ‘Conti’) —  into mixed halls.

  • Where females would now be able to cavort? But one would have thought that male students who were not gay would welcome that?
  • On the face of it, yes. But can you imagine a male student trying to ‘un-heat’ his body (Fela Anikulapo Kuti style) by being clad only in his underpants, who comes face to face with some delectable creature, whom he’d only like to encounter when he had ‘spotted’ well?
  • Suppose he had just filled his mouth on his way to ‘paste’?
  • Worst of all, suppose he was in the company of some other female?

– Ah! I see the problem. But surely, the boys and girls would be segregated, even though they were in the same hall?

– Look, let’s be realistic: none of the embarrassing situations we have looked at might actually arise in real life, but you know what the imagination can do. Young men are always in a rebellious mood, looking for something to oppose. And mixing them with females seemed a good cause to oppose. Extraneous issues — like the lack of adequate consultation — were just a rationalization after the fact.

-But the university authorities too – didn’t they hear of the commotion caused by the proposal to make Commonwealth Hall at Legon a mixed hall?

– Ha!  Nowadays, the university authorities do what the accountants tell them to do: i.e. cutcostscutcostscutcosts!

– Well, Katanga isn’t playing ball, is it? By the way, when are you going to tell me why it is called Katanga?

– Ok, ok!  The hall is sited a little distance from the main campus, and students who were first put there tried to take advantage of the ‘distance’ to sort of ‘secede’ from the rest of the university!

– Ah?  ‘Secede’?

– Yes. You may remember that between 1954 and 1956, Asante and other cocoa-growing areas demanded that those areas should be hived off Ghana, just before the Gold Coast was given its independence? That was what first brought ‘secession’ into Ghana’s political language.

– But I remember there was secession or something in the Congo?

– Yes! When the Congo became independent in June 1960, one mineral-rich province, Katanga, tried under a Belgian puppet called Moïse Tshombe to secede from the unitary government, led by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Google ‘Katanga’ and you will get all the apor!  Very interesting.

– Ok I’ll do that.

– Well, let me just explain: Katanga’s attempted secession led to a situation whereby the Congo has never really had any peace since its independence 58 years ago. The lesson in that is that secession usually brings terrible, unexpected consequences.

–        Like what happened in Nigeria during the Biafran attempt at secession?

-Yep. That brought an incalculable amount of suffering.

So your counsel….?

-The government and the university authorities not to over-react. Having replaced the University Council, the government must try to persuade the interim council to bear in mind that they, too, have been young before. OK, the vandalism and destruction of cars must be deplored, yes. But if you try too much to repress the emotionally-inspired actions of testosterone-filled young males…

  • And you may blow both them and yourselves up?

Yep! The Katangese, for their part, should appreciate that a huge number of graduates are unemployed already and that the last thing they want to do is to be thrown, half-cocked onto the heap of unemployed youths. The government is having enough trouble trying to organize a Nation Builders’ Corp to absorb unemployed graduates into gainful employment. …

  • Academic caps must just be taken off and put back on again – in the comical tradition observed at convocations?

-Yeah. You just don’t need a CDR-type contretemps that may last for years and years but achieve – NOTHING! In fact, Katanga is today, the CDR province of – Shaba!

  • No more Katanga?
  • No more Katanga!

By CAMERON DUODU

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