Reaction to the resignation of the Oxford Union's president's resignation in the light of Mr. Azamati's Case
On the evening of 19 November 2019, the Oxford University Africa Society (OUAS) received news of the resignation of Mr. Brendan McGrath as President of the Oxford Union. This resignation has been a central demand that OUAS has pursued since mobilising the OUAS constituency in seeking justice for our friend, brother and colleague, Mr. Ebenezer Azamati.Mr McGrath’s resignation comes after almost 50,000 signatures to our petition on Change.org, pressure induced through national and international media, and nearly 300 signatures from members of the Oxford Union supporting his impeachment.Of course, Mr. McGrath’s resignation alone does not resolve the patently systemic and institutional problems at the Oxford Union, but it is an essential first step. Our insistence on his departure was to demonstrate the need for leaders to be held accountable for their actions, particularly, leaders of the Oxford Union -an institution which prides itself in grooming Britain’s Leaders. There are still outstanding demands to be met, including the punishment of security personnel and compensation to Mr Azamati. We are aware that his lawyers are in discussions with the Union to address these issues, and we are hopeful that full justice is realised. We will continue to offer our support until all the demands are met.
Inasmuch as ours has been about the cause of Mr. Azamati, it has also been about boldly asserting the dignity of black, African, and disabled students to exist safely within the spaces of, and inextricably associated with, Oxford University. On our part, we hope to work with well-meaning members and leaders within the Oxford Union to pass policies and repair the institutional culture that will render the Union a safe place for all students, irrespective of class, colour or ability. In addition to this, we will continue to work with central University administrators to address the issues exposed at an institutional level. Lastly, we are also working with welfare institutions within the University to ensure that Mr. Azamati receives the support he needs.
This entire incident has given rise to many leadership lessons; we hope that all individuals and institutions that were role players would take time to reflect on the salient lessons from this.
OUAS remains indebted and grateful to all individuals and organisations that have reached out to offer such admirable solidarity and support—these are too numerous to mention. Gratitude to our OUAS alumni who have been part of our movement from a distance,some of whom came down to Oxford to join the protests and many of whom were actively involved in galvanising online awareness. We are deeply thankful to our immediate past Presidents Papa Kojo Botsio -DPhil Education candidate (Ghana & Green Templeton College), and Ndjodi Ndeuyema -DPhil Law candidate (Namibia & Linacre College) for their actions, advice, and counsel throughout to ensure that the OUAS manages the situation with the highest professional standards.
The Oxford University Africa Society, founded in 1958,has been actively involved in the struggle for decolonisation and independence on the African continent. 61 years later, we remain assertive in upholding the dignity and rights of all Africans. We are grateful to all our members and supporters within and beyond Oxford University for joining us to boldly defend the ethos upon which we were founded.