By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe
For many years, the Government has been trying to gain control over Makerere University. This attempt has always failed.
Government and Makerere have a long-standing dispute over funding and ‘intellectual autonomy.
This isn’t new!! when President Idi Amin murdered Vice Chancellor, Prof. Frank Kalimuzo, he felt threatened that Makerere University was being used as a ‘centre of intellectual rebellion.’
I have interacted with many Vice Chancellors, many of them would defend the independence of Makerere with their lives.
Apart from receiving Government funding, Makerere operates as an autonomous entity and this has been the case for all its existence. Trying to impose political control will only create disruptions and the ultimate loser is the student. As we speak, the university can’t re-open because of an externally generated problem.
When President Museveni closed it for two months in 2016, that was an indication that the good old Makerere was under threat. But as usual, the alumni of Makerere University in Government chose to ‘dance with the devil.’
Recently, something unprecedented happened at Makerere…I heard President Museveni praising a vice-chancellor, Prof. Nawangwe for bringing discipline to the University. I think its the first time in the history of Uganda and Makerere.
Under normal circumstances, a healthy relationship between Government and Makerere would be desirable, but when Government seeks to silence those who openly oppose Museveni, thats harmony loses meaning.
And my observation is that Prof. Nawangwe is facilitating this ‘rape’ of Makerere’s independence hiding under the cover of ‘discipline’.
If there was any senior executive to be dismissed from Makerere, that should have been Prof. Nawangwe when he was still deputy Vice Chancellor-Finance and administration. There are so many cases of financial impropriety about Prof. Nawangwe when he held that office. I hope they will soon come out. I think he had chosen his stance of ‘cooperating’ with Government to protect himself.
Prof. Ddumba would have dismissed Nawengwe many times for insubordination and indiscipline but Ddumba chose legitimate ways of resolving conflicts. That’s how institutions work. He also had a better understanding of the ‘politics’ between Makerere and Government.
In the past, lecturers, students and even ‘strangers’ would hold political discourse at Makerere without interference. This not stop Makerere from maintaining its position as the best in the region. Many student leaders started their journey at Makerere. This no longer happens.
For the first time, students and lecturers who spoke about what they believed in were dismissed from the University. When did criticism become indiscipline?
In Prof. Nawangwe, President Museveni has found a soft spot to control Makerere which he has always blamed for being against his regime.
All well-meaning individuals must resist Prof. Nawangwe’s highhandedness towards students and staff of Makerere. He is a spirit-medium, implementing another individual’s plan.
At the centre of Makerere’s contradictions is also another issue-money. There is a lot of revenue from private sponsored students, and other internally generated revenue, if this is not resolved, Makerere could easily degenerate into chaos.
But this will happen with adhering to the policies and laws, not political interference or Government trying to silence those who disagree with the regime.
At the end of the day, the people involved in these wars have lived their lives, they have benefited from Makerere’s strong academic training, now they seek to undermine its existence. That affects the future generations.
Everyone involved in this must always remember, ‘We build for the Future’. Is Prof. Nawangwe doing this?!!
Mr Fortunate Ahimbisibwe is a seasoned Kampala journalist currently on a sabbatical to the UK