MBARARA – The standoff at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) between the academic staff and their Vice-Chancellor is not about to end.
It has now taken a fresh twist after VC Prof Obua through the University Secretary authorized the interdiction of the University’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) as the University staff demanded the withdrawal of the interdiction letter within a 48 hour period.
The staff members have contested against Prof. Obua’s letter saying, “this is a form of harassment” they claim that Obua uses such tactics to silence those who oppose his bad leadership ever since he assumed office in October 2014.
Academic Staff on Monday evening under their umbrella association of Mbarara University of Science and Technology Academic staffs Association (MUSTASA) held a crisis general assembly at the Main Lecture Theater (MLT) Hall.
The staff team unanimously resolved to give a 48-hour ultimatum to the University Secretary Melchior Byaruhanga and Prof. Obua Celestine to ensure that they withdraw the interdiction letter of Denis Lukaaya the (PRO).
According to the letter dated June, 7th that was addressed to Denis Lukaaya the PRO signed by the University Secretary Byaruhanga directs Lukaaya to hand over the office and any other related University properties with immediate effect. This followed allegations of threatening violence to Prof. Obua Celestine the Vice Chancellor.
It is alleged that on May 9, while at Kihumuro main compass during a joint meeting of top university management and academic staff with the committee of parliament on educations and sports who had come to resolve issues which had caused issues that subsequently led to MUST staff laying down their tools. It is alleged that Lukaaya stood up to speak and in the process threatened to physically attack Prof. Obua.
In the letter dated May 13, Prof. Obua wrote to Byaruhanga (University Secretary) raising a complaint against Lukaaya and asked the US to take the necessary action as per the human resource manual.
“This is to raise my complaint of threatened violence towards me by Denis Lukaaya during a joint meeting of academic staff associations and administrative leader’s forum, members of the council together with top management, a meeting that was presided over the education committee of parliament chaired by Jacob Opolot.
Mr. Denis Lukaaya stood up to speak during which he threatened to attack me physically had he not be restrained, I fear he would have physically harmed me” Prof. Obua’s letter reads in part.
It adds, “This act by Lukaaya is a violation of MUST human resource manual section 3,3,2(u) which states that actual or threatened violence/behaviour which provokes constitutes gross misconduct. This is, therefore, to appeal to you to take the necessary action as recommended in the human resource manual.”
On June 7, the US Byaruhanga wrote a letter to Lukaaya directing him to respond in writing to the allegations and complaint raised by Prof. Obua in a period of 14 days after explaining why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.
On the same day June 7th, University Secretary Melchior Byaruhanga again issued another letter of interdiction for Lukaaya without allowing him to respond to allegations as per the demands in the first letter.
“It has been decided to interdict you with immediate effect pending investigations into the allegations; the interdiction will be for one month but can be extended for another period if investigations are not yet completed. During the interdiction, the university will pay you half of the salary subject to refund other half in case the interdiction if lifted and charges dropped” The interdiction letter reads in part.
It adds, “you are further required to handover office and any other property in your possession to the vice chancellor not later than close of business today (last Friday) without fail”
However this has stirred up afresh fire in the university against Prof. Obua who has been for the long time accused of threatening and harassing staffs with letters of suspension especially to those who oppose his maladministration which had prompted academic staffs to declare an industrial actions by laying down tools which lasted for five days before it was suspended last month.
While in the general assembly on Monday, Julius Taremwa the secretary general to MUSTASA read the resolutions to members of staffs among was to demand that Obua and Byaruhanga within 48 hours to have withdrawn the interdiction letter else they(staffs) announce their next course of action.
“The alleged crime of threatening violence should have been raised to the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on education Jacob Opolot who chaired the session. This letter is a sign of harassment and violation of the resolution of the committee on staff harassment as if that is not enough, the matter is being pursued by two people who currently under investigations for mismanagement of the university as it was highlighted in the petition so we cannot rule out the issue of conflict of interest.” Taremwa the general secretary said in the meeting.
Before adding that for purposes of natural justice, Obua and Byaruhanga would not have been the complainant, judge and the executor. He adds that given the fact that the two letters were issued on the same day, Lukaaya was not given a chance to respond to the allegation slapped against him.
He further maintains that since the matter is a criminal offense in nature, that there is no record of police involvement since the university has no jurisdiction powers to handle such offences.
“Therefore failure to follow the procedure by the US is a sign of incompetence and further shows how prejudiced he is in this matter, we demand that the letter be withdrawn unconditionally within 48 hours before we announce our next course of action” Taremwa concluded.