The Oxford Union has been slammed after a blind student was “dragged by his ankles” by the Union staff during a no-confidence debate on October 17, 2019. An altercation between Union staff and Ebenezer Azamati, a blind member of the audience, reportedly broke out when the latter left some possessions to reserve an accessible seat and tried to re-enter the chamber. Azamati, a Ghanaian MPhil student in International Relations at St. John’s College, pleaded the crowd that the staff had seized his Union card and that he won’t leave without it.
The Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc) condemned the incident calling it violent, unjust, inhumane, and shameful treatment of their member. AfriSoc demanded an unreserved public apology to Azamati by the Oxford Union and the President, Brendan McGrath. The society also demanded the reinstatement of Azamati’s Oxford Union membership and adequate punishment for the security personnel who assaulted him.
“AfriSoc holds this case as not only a grave injustice to Mr Azamati but to all African students, students with disability needs and all students at the University of Oxford with the heart and mind to appreciate the unfair and undignified treatment of Mr Azamati,” said Nwamaka Ogbonna, President, Oxford University Africa Society.
“AfriSoc thus calls on the President of the Union to consider his position given that his conduct on this matter renders him unfit to assume the position of responsibility,” said Ogbonna in a statement.
McGrath, after continuous pressure, not only formally withdrew the charge against Azamati of violent behaviour and aggressive gestures but also apologised ‘unreservedly for the distress and any reputational damage which the publication of the charge may have caused him’. But the rest of the demands, including the resignation of McGrath, have not been fulfilled yet. “By misrepresenting the facts of the case and subjecting Mr. Azamati to undue trauma, distress and pain, Mr. McGrath has proven himself unfit to be President of the Union,” said AfriSoc reiterating the demand of resignation.