So, what is 'Katanga'?

Wed, 31 Oct 2018 Source: Cameron Duodu

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

K2: Koo, it all started at Katanga!!

K1: Kata-what?


And what-is-Katanga?

Katanga is the name of a hall of residence of KNUST. It has

the reputation of being – shall we say – 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?” That's piffle!

Well, it depends on where you stand. If you've been swotting all night and you still can't get your heard round trigonometry, and someone says, “Thank God it's Friday!Chum, let's go and boost our morale a bit with ogogoro!”, And you go and imbibe, and the bile in the imbibed urges you to shout or otherwise engage in activities that normally, you would only carry out in a palm-wine bar and not in a hall of residence at a premier University, are you being undisciplined, or just “releasing” unexpended energy sidelined by your body, as it charged and recharged the neurons in your hippocampus?

Awirade ei! Tu bra! I thought hippos lived in large rivers in East and Central Africa?

Hahahahaha! The English language has more uses for prefixes like “hippo” than you know, you know?

Come on, do come down to earth. What is Katanga?

As I tried to tell you, Katanga is a very volatile hall of residence on the campus of KNUST. It has earned the reputation of being a law unto itself, so any small thing that occurs there is blown out of proportion. Just say “Katanga” and everyone shakes his head.

But was Katanga behind the current closure of the University?

You might say that happenings at Katanga was one of the remote causes.

Remote cause?

Yes. The problem began at the beginning of 2018 when unrest broke out among some students who were not happy that the University authorities wanted to convert two all-male halls of residence – University Hall, (popularly known as Katanga) and Unity Hall -- into mixed halls, where females would now be accommodated.

One would have thought that the male students would welcome female company?

On the face of it, yes. But you must acknowledge that the presence of females tends to alter male behaviour seriously? Can you imagine a male student wandering sleepily along the corridors, trying to de-heat his body by being clad only in his not-so-pristine underpants, only to come face to face with some delectable creature whom he'd only like to encounter when he had his most “spotalistic” flying-tie casually

lolling about in the frontal area of a shirt in matching colour?

Or when he had toothpaste all over his mouth and was trying to reach a sink as quickly as possible?

Worst of all, suppose he was escorting some other female

and he ran into another one about whom he'd been – let's say – fantasising?

Ahah! 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 arise in real life, but you know what the imagination can do. The boys have been imagining all sorts of things, and they've come to the firm conclusion that mixing them with females would not be a good idea.

But the University authorities too – didn't they hear of the commotion caused by what happened at Legon when it was proposed that Commonwealth Hall should be a mixed hall?

Ho – the University authorities do what the accountants tell them to do: i.e. reducecostsreducecostsreducecosts!

Well, it appears Katanga isn't going to play ball. By the way, are you going to tell me why it is called Katanga or not?

Oh that's simple. Apparently, it's sited a little distance from the main campus, and the students who were first put there used that circumstance to more or less “secede” from the rest of the University!

What is “secede”?

Oh God! Didn't you do current affairs? First, Ghana: between 1954 and 1956, a movement began in Asante and other cocoa-growing areas demanding that those areas be hived off the Ghana that was going to be given independence. The aim was largely to prevent the central government in Accra from continuing to dictate the price that was paid to cocoa-farmers for the cocoa they produced.

But I remember something about the Congo?

Yes! When the Congo became independent in June 1960, one province, mineral-rich Katanga, led by a Belgian puppet called Moise Tshombe, led a revolt against the central government, led by Patrice Lumumba – but why don't you Google “Katanga” and see for yourself?

Ok I'll do that. I would have liked to know your perspective of the issue, that's all.

Well, let me just say this: Katanga's secession in 1960 led to the situation whereby the Congo has never really had peace since its independence 58 years ago. The lesson from that is that secession can bring enormous, unexpected, consequences. Have you also heard about Biafra trying to secede from the Federation of Nigeria? That also brought a huge amount of suffering.

So you would counsel whom to do what?

I'd counsel the Government and the University authorities not to over-react to the situation. The University authorities and the members of the Government that has just replaced the University Council must bear in mind that they have been young before and that if you decide to repress the emotionally-inspired actions of testosterone-filled young males too harshly, you may end up in a place you didn't want to go to. Similarly, the Kantangese and other students should remember that there is already a huge amount of graduate unemployment in the country and that the last thing they want to do is to court being thrown onto the heap of the unemployed, just at the time the Government, through the Nation Builders Corp, is trying to do something about graduate unemployment.

But a few heads must roll?

I don't know about! Academic caps must just be taken off and replaced again – as is comically done at convocations! You just don't want a prolonged CDR-type contretemps, which lasts and lasts and lasts but achieves – NOTHING!

Columnist: Cameron Duodu