Legislators have emphasized the need for dialogue as a means of addressing the recurrent strikes at Makerere University.
Makerere staff went on strike at the start of the semester in February 2019 following the suspension of Bennet Magara and Joseph Kalema; both leaders of Makerere University Administrative Staff Association (MASA) and Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the Chairperson Makerere University Staff Association (MUASA) for alleged misconduct and violation of the terms of their employment.
While meeting the leaders of the University staff associations on 26 February 2019, MPs on the Education Committee warned that failure to resolve issues amicably will taint the image of the university which is ranked among the best in Africa.
Hon. Isaac Joakino Etuuka (NRM, Upper Madi County) noted that the constant strikes are affecting the quality of education in the university.
“The strikes affect the core functions of the university like teaching and research, and the progress of the university is likely to be bogged down,” Etuuka said.
Hon. Robert Musoke (NRM, Budiope West County) said that finding ways to end strikes in the University should be an issue of concern to all Ugandans because majority of the population is a product of the university.
“This is our very own and we need to handle all issues concerning Makerere University with care because we are handling our history. If we mishandle it, we are dismantling our history,” said Musoke.
Otuke County MP, Hon. Julius Acon Bua warned that if causes of strikes in the university are not addressed, the future generation will bear the brunt.
“It would be so sad for our children to see that Makerere, one of the best in Africa turned into a battle ground,” said Acon.
Hon. Margaret Baba Diri (NRM, Koboko district) said university staff are partly to blame for the strikes because they have continuously taken industrial action even after management is changed.
“You staff are very fond of protecting yourselves. If someone has done a mistake, let them be suspended and if they are not genuinely suspended, take the right procedure. We are fed up of these strikes,” said Baba Diri.
The Member of Parliament of Jonam County Hon. Emmanuel Ongeirtho Jor cautioned the association against defending undisciplined staff at the cost of the smooth operation of the university.
“I sympathize with the staff but for my sympathy to be strong, I need them to show that internally; they have tried to manage the conflicts and have not protected the undisciplined,” said Ongeirtho.
Committee Chair Jacob Opolot, advised the staff to re-evaluate their actions, saying that management cannot take the entire blame.
“Is management solely at fault? Is there no weakness among staff? Are you trying to shield individuals? Some of these issues will need deeper and longer engagement. We cannot pretend that we can address them in this short interaction,” said Jacob Opolot.
The Chairman MUASA, Prof Deus Kamunyu blamed the strikes in Makerere on the abuse of arbitration procedures by the university management.
“The committee will look for ways to delay cases. They will either say one member is sick or the lawyer is away and you will find a case delayed for over two years. We cannot look on as our members are handled unjustly,” said Kamunyu.
He called on the university management to follow the laws governing the university, as a means to reduce incidences of industrial action by staff.
“Makerere is not a battle field. We are not angels but we have concerns as workers. We are being governed by the law but if those managing us don’t know the importance of the law, then it is unfair,” said Kamunyu.
He further urged the university council to respect Parliament’s decision to lift suspensions of Association leaders.
“By law, these suspensions have already elapsed and are of no consequence. This Parliament saw it fit to give ironclad immunities of association leaders to work as workers representatives without fear and occupational detriment,” said Kamunyu.