President Museveni has backed Makerere Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe in his quest to restore discipline at Uganda’s oldest institution.
Makerere students this week staged a violent strike in solidarity with their lecturers who have been on strike since the start of the semester.
The lecturers accuse Nawangwe of witch-hunting leaders of the university associations.
Nawangwe suspended Makerere University Academic Staff Assosication [MUASA] chairman, Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi for “damaging the reputation of Council, Management and many colleagues”.
He accuses Deus Kamunyu, Bennet Magara, the chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association (MASA), and his general secretary, Joseph Kalema, of indiscipline and inciting fellow staff.
While launching the 6th round of the Presidential Investors Roundtable–a high level forum through which government and the private sector candidly discuss ways of improving the climate for investing & doing business in Uganda, Museveni came to the defence of Nawangwe.
Museveni says he is firmly behind restoring discipline at Makerere and that all Nawangwe wants to have is discipline.
“Nawangwe is an Engineer, a professor of Technology and wants to restore discipline to this institution. People want to continue with buyayesism. Imagine a professor who stripes naked and is cheered on. Makerere is a centre of study not stupidity. I am firmly behind him,” the President said.
The conflict between the University administration and its academic staff follows the suspension of various lecturers for misconduct, indiscipline and involvement in acts that breach the terms and conditions of their employment.
“Imagine a professor who stripes naked and is cheered on. I believe in Makerere as a centre of study not stupidity,” Museveni made himself clear.
He was referring to Dr Stella Nyanzi, who in 2016 fought Prof Mahmood Mamdani, the executive director of Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), with nakedness when she lost her office.
Dr. Stella had declined to participate in a PhD programme at MISR.
To get back her office key, Stella undressed infront of cameras, threw away her knickers and bras until management was forced to intervene.
She has since been fired from the institution and is currently languishing in Luzira prison for insulting Museveni’s dead mother, Esteri Kokundeka.
Appearing on NBS “Frontline” programme, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, said he doesn’t think Makerere lacks qualified people.
“I think it is lack of appropriate ethics. I have never met Nawangwe but to heap all the problems on him is like saying this is the first issue of this nature Makerere is having,” Opondo noted.
Opondo doesn’t see any contradiction in Dr. Deus and others going to sort their issues in the committee. These are governance, managerial and ethical issues.
“I have refused to agree that Nawangwe is solely responsible for the cumulative rot in Makerere. Makerere needs a tough broom to sweep it.”
Former MUASA chairman Dr. Muhammad Kiggundu said these are institutional issues that can be handled.
“The time that has been given has led to collection of different ideas. What we want to do is come up with a solution to avoid the re-occurrence of such strikes,” he noted.
Former Makerere Vice Chancellor Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba said in his view, these matters can be resolved and that if management is serious it should come up with short, middle and long term solutions.
“The issue of the leaders of associations is so serious. Let the VC withdraw these suspensions. We tend to think the VC is the overall person at the university. The university has a council and it is the council with overall authority of Makerere,” Prof Barya explained.
He said the students should be the main concern. “I am still in Makerere, I have shares in Makerere (everyone who went through Makerere has shares) I got my qualifications from Makerere and each time Makerere goes down, my value goes down.”
Democratic Party President Norbert Mao said a university is a place for universal knowledge, leading a university should be about making sure the university does its job.
“Makerere has enough intellect, what they need now is compassion. A transformational leader is bound to be involved in conflict. The Vice Chancellor has exhibited extreme weakness, I don’t think he can recover from this,” Mao explained.
Forum for Democratic Change [FDC] vice president for Eastern Uganda, Hon. Salaamu Musumba, suggested fixing the council full of business men who are sharing resources.
“I would want us to have the Rwendeire report. What does it show? Let the public know. They (Makerere administration) need a new tool kit on how to run Makerere. They are in big places but they don’t seem to have right tool kit for the job,” she noted.