Oxford University Africa Society have condemned the Union President for his actions regarding the treatment of a blind man who was expelled from the Union chamber during a debate last month.
The society have called for Brendan McGrath’s resignation in a statement that condemns the “violent, unjust, inhumane, and shameful treatment of [their] member.”
The Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc), a society which seeks to set the agenda for the future of the African Continent by providing a platform for African students, plan to protest at the Oxford Union this Friday.
This statement follows the announcement that Helen Mountfield, Principal of Mansfield College and QC barrister, will take Ebenezer Azamati’s case against the Oxford Union.
Specialising in human rights and equality law, Mountfield will take the case after a disciplinary committee banned him from the Union for two terms, having found him to have caused disruption.
The panel, which included ex-President Stephen Horvath and ex-returning officers Henry Samuels and Alastair Graham, found Mr Azamati guilty of violating Union rules against “violent conduct”.
Ebenezer Azamati, a postgraduate International Relations student at St John’s College, has a BA in Political Science from the University of Ghana and an MSc in International Politics from SOAS.
AfriSoc said: “Our understanding is that Mr. Azamati, who is visually impaired, was forcibly and violently prevented from re-entering the Union to resume his seat, and subsequently, forced to leave the debate Chamber after simply exiting and re-entering when the program had not even begun. Even if he had re-entered when the debate had started, such poor treatment through violent means remains unjustifiable.”
The society sent a letter to the Oxford Union earlier this month, demanding the following: a public apology from the Union and its President Brendan McGrath, the recantation of Mr Azamati’s ban, and adequate punishment of the security personnel who assaulted him.
The statement continued to say: “That the Oxford Union neither acknowledged receipt of our letter nor reacted to its contents is not represents the wanting manner in which this case has been handled from the start, and the irresponsible leadership which characterises the Oxford Union today.
“What is more disturbing is that, after the terrible treatment meted out to Mr. Azamati, Brendan McGrath, the President of the Union, who was absent at the scene of the incident personally lodged a complaint against Mr. Azamati for violent behaviour. This is a shocking response given that he was not, in fact, the perpetrator of violence but a victim.
“The manner in which Brendan McGrath and the Union have handled this matter is inhumane, not least given the dignity of an individual at stake. AfriSoc is deeply concerned by the physical, emotional and psychological trauma Mr. Azamati has had to endure in the past few weeks due to reckless leadership on display at the Oxford Union.
“That the Union failed in this basic responsibility is sufficient grounds to demand for the resignation of the Union President, Mr. Brendan McGrath. AfriSoc thus calls on the President of the Union to consider his position given that he his conduct on this matter renders him unfit to assume the position of responsibility.”
“In addition, AfriSoc will proceed to protest against the Oxford Union until our demands are fully met.
“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.”
Mr Azamati could neither confirm nor deny the matter.
Helen Mountfield said: “Mr Azamati is seeking a sensible resolution of this matter within the Union in the first instance and will not be making further comment at this time.”