WHY PROF NAWANGWE CAN’T SURVIVE LATEST MAK UNREST (M7 BLUE EYED DON IS NOW EMBATTLED ON ALL FRONTS)
By Mulengera Reporters
The latest stand off at Makerere has attracted unanimous condemnation (targeting VC Barnabas Nawangwe) from quarters one would never have expected. For instance, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) President Simon Peter Kinobe (widely respected for his objectivity & for speaking only when it’s extremely necessary) has rallied all lawyers and well-meaning Ugandans to show their disgust with the human rights violations that have accompanied the latest anti-tuition increase strike at the Ivory Tower.
In a social media rant, that was followed by a formal media statement and a range of ULS actions meant to show solidarity with the students who he maintains haven’t done anything wrong, Kinobe castigates Nawangwe for being insensitive and forgetting that even he himself is a Professor because of the pro-poor policies that were in place in the Uganda of his youth which have since vanished at the Makerere he now leads.
“As with most of my age mates we were born in very humble families. The walk of faith was practical and real. We studied by the mercy of those institutions and individuals that allowed our parents to pay for our dues in installments and at times students would offer their labour to schools for tuition. Never did my parents pay my tuition upfront. That was the opportunity life gave us. A fighting chance to make it. We are what we are because we were blessed,” Kinobe reflectively stated adding that; “Many of those in the leadership of the University [Nawangwe & Co] and the country never had to worry about tuition in Makerere as studying in Makerere was free. A privilege to education for all regardless of background. It is sad that our leaders in Makerere [led by an indifferent Nawangwe] have turned a blind eye to the plight of the poor and forgotten the past that created them.”
Kinobe’s rant ends in clear condemnation of the indifference with which the Nawangwe-administration has continued to act when it comes to being required to act prudently in ways the Constitution permits. “Am also advised that students who peacefully demonstrated against the increment of tuition fees have been arrested and detained beyond 48 hours. This is unacceptable. We shall be setting up a team to advocate for the rights of these students.”
Now this is dangerous not just because of the seriousness with which many key decision-makers take Kinobe by virtue of his position but also because this debate around the need for Nawangwe to be mindful of the Constitutional safeguards whenever deciding to dismiss or sanction any student or staff is something the new Governing Council has lately been very decisive about. They have repeatedly been reminding Nawangwe that the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of citizens isn’t a matter that is negotiable or that is about the VC from Busia doing a favor to anyone.
In fact, Kiwanuka Kiryowa (who government specifically deployed at Makerere as its representative in the Governing Council after realizing billions were being lost in avoidable litigation) hasn’t minced words on this. He is on record calling on Nawangwe to act Constitutionally to avoid resultant litigation in case his improper actions result into cases being filed against the University. Kiryowa, who ironically has turned out to be very pro-staff against the VC’s draconian approaches, has gone as far as threatening to make the VC personally pay should court continue awarding damages in billions against the University. KK’s unexpected stand, against draconian management decisions, has reportedly left Nawangwe (who expected him to naturally rubber stamp his decadent dictatorship) feeling isolated and extremely subdued.
BACK TO KINOBE
In his case, Kinobe has gone as far as ensuring there are more than enough lawyers at hand to free-of-charge secure the release of all students whose arrest and suspension dictator Nawangwe instigated simply because they showed displeasure with the new tuition increment. The lawyers, whose deployment and remuneration is being supervised directly by ULS CEO Joyce Nalunga, will also be available to give legal representation to students in the subsequent civil suits against the State (and by extension Nawangwe) for the torture, lost property and degrading treatment they have endured as a result of the ongoing chaos at Makerere which staff say has resulted from nothing but Nawangwe’s unwillingness to prioritize dialogue with those he disagrees with.
The students are to be legally aided through the ULS’ program of Duty Counsel whereby the Law Society-hired lawyers are available 24/7 to represent all indigent (poor) Ugandans each time they get unfairly arrested and detained at any of the KMP police stations. In Makerere’s case, Kinobe and Nalunga have ensured teams of excellent lawyers are assigned to pitch camp at the Wandegeya Police Station until the last detained student is freed. All this is for free and just part of the ULS’ broader program of hiring lawyers to enhance the poor’s access to justice. Kinobe is one relentless fighter who doesn’t easily give up once convinced it’s a genuine cause and that is the spirit he has inspired majority of his ULS constituents to have. This simply means that from now on, Prof Nawangwe’s irrational actions are going to come under repeated scrutiny by the ULS fraternity whose membership comprises of very influential men and women.
OTHERS WEIGH IN
Apart from Kinobe, there are other equally influential actors who have equally weighed in disputing Nawangwe’s actions as too inflexible and unacceptable. Balaam Barugahara, an influential informal assistant to the President on matters concerning young people, faults Nawangwe for leading a management that doesn’t adequately communicate to students and instead prioritizes sanctioning and criminalizing whoever takes a stand they don’t like.
Balaam warns such management style is inappropriate and can’t be tolerated at a 21st century University. Moses Nuwagaba, a senior Musevenist RDC who recently graduated at LDC, blames the Nawangwe administration for leading in a manner that has made it possible for security agency leaders to (in his own words) “deploy P2 drop outs” who know nothing about handling intellectuals and brutality is all they know. He argues that a more prudent administration should have avoided the ongoing violence at the Ivory Tower. He implores police to have an elite riot unit that can in future be deployed at Makerere given its unique nature as the headquarters of intellectualism in Uganda. He believes the students’ blood that continues to be shed as security brutalizes “people’s children” will one day haunt Nawangwe.
For much respected human rights defender Robert Sempala and activists Richard Wanzara Ssalongo, the latest events at Makerere only exonerate those who have always believed that Nawangwe is the worst Vice Chancellor Makerere ever had. Wanzara is also a former students’ leader at Makerere of the mid-2000s. He brands Nawangwe a disaster and Sempala wonders why the VC could go as far as acquiescing to decisions to violently chase away scribes who had gone to cover a news conference by the Guild officials who desired to update the country on the latest chaos at the country’s Premier University.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye wonders why Makerere University of Nawangwe-era has become synonymous with vicious cracking down on decent like never before. Norbert Mao, a former Guild President at the same University, agrees with KB. The two opposition leaders also say what’s happening at Makerere is merely a symptom of a much larger problem of institutional decay and breakdown that has become prevalent in Museveni’s Uganda. They argue that other institutions have equally been affected though intolerance at Makerere has escalated during Mr. Barnabas Nawangwe’s era.
Bobi Wine Kyagulanyi Sentamu agrees with this being merely a symptom of the larger governance problems in Uganda and discloses much more. He says the new tuition increment is “unjust” adding its “disturbing” that so much brutality had to be unleashed in response to a peaceful protest to the same by female students. He then reports; “A female students’ leader was not only suspended from the University but was also attacked in the night and beaten up to a point that she has been unable to speak up to now.”
Himself an OB of Makerere, Mr. Wine further reports to his more than 1m social media followers; “Musiri David, a students’ leader and activist was brutally arrested and badly tortured. We have been told by relatives that on seeing what happened to his son, Musiri’s ailing father relapsed and passed on instantly. It is still unclear if they [Makerere bosses like Nawangwe] will eventually allow him mourn with his family.” Mr. Wine adds; “Over 67 students are in detention, including Guild President Kateregga Julius and many female students. Many are nursing serious injuries as a result of beatings sustained. We all watched as teargas canisters were thrown directly into students’ rooms!”
Mr. Wine, who has a vast network around Makerere through his PA Roy Sembogga, adds that; “Then last night, the military outdid itself. They attacked halls of residence including Lumumba and Mary Stuart and broke into students’ rooms, dragged them out and flogged them with reckless abandon. No dignity afforded to female students! As if under a spell, they destroyed students’ properties. As we speak many students are nursing injuries. I condemn these actions in the strongest terms possible. It is very unfortunate that our country has been reduced into this. The military must never be used to torment unarmed citizens.”
As if to urge students and equally disgruntled staff (who have previously suffered the Nawangwe wrath) to fight on, Mr. Wine promises them solidarity of his entire PP movement and also promises to use the Parliamentary platform to further nationalize the plight of Makerere’s marginalized employees and students. This is how he makes his point; “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Makerere. Protesting injustice is not a crime. You are not rebels or terrorists to attract this kind of wrath from the military. You are citizens of Uganda demanding fairness and social justice. We stand with you and certainly assure you that we shall overcome! Yesterday, we dispatched our legal team to join the lawyers [from ULS] who are trying to secure the release of the arrested students. We shall also use other means to fight alongside you including raising these issues in Parliament and bringing criminal charges against those who are involved in these actions.”
All this unexpected solidarity can only lead to one result-and that is emboldening the hitherto cowed students and staff to begin standing up to Nawangwe’s dictatorship like never before. And they surely will win because once enough discontent is demonstrably galvanized, President Museveni (who previously publicly praised the VC) will have no option but to also withdraw his endorsement from the much-loathed Professor from Busia. (For comments on this story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0200900416).