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Mbarara university council in crisis meeting over Vice Chancellor’s fate

Prof. Obua Celestine the current VC Mbarara University of Science and Technology. (PHOTO BY BOB AINE)

MBARARA – Following the impasse between a section of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) staff and the current Vice Chancellor Prof. Celestine Obua over the process of appointing a new Vice, the University Council has called a crisis meeting on Friday(tomorrow) to make a final decision over the matter.

In a phone interview with Dr. Ben Mbonye, the University Council chairman, he said that they have decided to convene council meeting today Friday, February 22, to take a final decision on the matter.

His comment comes at a time when the university is embroiled in a serious conflict between a section of staff and some members of the top management who are against the ploy to have the current VC Prof. Obua reappointed for another term.

Dr. Mbonye adds: “We know all that is going on but it would be premature when I reveal what is going to be discussed in the Council that is sitting on Friday. We want to discuss all these issues and Council will take a final decision on the matter. We shall communicate our position.”

The staff under Mbarara University of Science and Technology Academic Staffs Association (MUSTASA) are agitating for the process of selecting a new Vice Chancellor which has been tactfully delayed to have it started and have the search committee which was instituted to start it’s work.

Early last month a search committee was instituted by the senate to vet and select a new person to the position but the current VC has allegedly frustrated the efforts by the committee to start its work saying before anything is done, he should be assessed and appraised, if his performance found wanting then they can go ahead and advertise the position.

Staff accuse Prof Obua of trying to ring-fence the seat in order to retain himself through an automatic reappointment, which they say cannot be allowed.

It should be noted that Prof. Obua assumed office in October 2014 to serve a term of five years which is ending this year in October. However, according to the legally prescribed process for setting up the search committee, the position of the VC and his deputies are supposed to be advertised for a calendar year and it hoped that new Vice Chancellor should be announced by mid-March 2019 six months before the expiry of current term of office on October 24.

Prof. Obua had told us he is eligible for reappointment since at the end of his tenure. In October this year he will be 65 years of age.

He further opined that the major challenge is that those people who think it is incumbent upon them to cause change, have failed to interpret the Act properly.

He said: “When the Act says that the VC is appointed for one term and is eligible for reappointment for the second term after advertising and it goes ahead to say that the applicant must be between the age of 45 to 65, so when you employ me when am 65 and in my terms of employment you say that am eligible for re-appointment does it mean you have a cap on the age limit? You can’t say so, because you are employing some of 65 by the end of his term he will be 70 meaning now he is eligible for re-appointment. For them they are failing to interpret the Act.”

He added: “I am eligible for re-appointment. The Solicitor General has written explaining what re-appointment means it’s not automatic but the person must be given an opportunity to be assessed and appraised and only when is found wanting then the position can be advertised. A search committee can be set but as long as is eligible for re-appointment assessed and found he has been performing. There is no need for advertising that position, you cannot say you subject him to the new search. We have had such cases in court. ”

Obua had threatened that if Council goes ahead and advertise his position without subjecting him to performance assessment and appraisal, he will not hesitate to seek legal redress in Courts of Law.

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