KAMPALA — Makerere University PhD students have condemned the cancellation of their convention, accusing their Vice Chancellor for allegedly standing in the way of President Yoweri Museveni’s address.
At the start of the week, PML Daily established that President Museveni was scheduled to give a keynote address at the Annual Doctoral Convention 2019 on 18th September, at the University Main Hall.
The event was organised under the theme; “Visionary Research and Graduate Training towards African Agenda 2019”. However, at the 11th hour, the president is said to have cancelled the visit on advice of the Vice Chancellor Professor Barnabas Nawangwe
PML Daily has had exclusive interviews with the angry students’ sources who described the development as unfair, and a climax show of egos by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Nawangwe.
“All preparations were in high gear, and the Special Forces Advance Team conducted preliminary visit of the venue and services and approved ratified the arrangements.
However, late evening, of September, 17th State House broke the news to the convention organizers that the president was not going to come to the function,” sources say.
They allege that the reason given was that the Vice Chancellor was not aware of the visit.
However reliable sources indicate that the Vice Chancellor had held a meeting with the Students’ Leaders in which he had okayed the president’s visit. The University went ahead to order for services such as food.
We interviewed highly placed sources who requested to be anonymous at the university. The sources disclosed to PML Daily that the Vice Chancellor had held two meetings with the convention organizers; at 07:30am and 05:00 pm respectively at his office.
“I alone can invite the President to the University. Why and how do you invite the President without my knowledge,” Professor Nawangwe reportedly said in a meeting with PhD students’ leaders.
One of our sources who attended meeting however, says the VC seemed convinced and reluctantly agreed to allow the president’s coming because it was in interest of the students and the university.
In this meeting, the Vice Chancellor reportedly requested the convention organizers to mobilize massively to give the President a large audience.
Professor Nawangwe allegedly said that this would give the President an opportunity to address exclusively PhD students for the first time since he assumed power in 1986.
It is this commitment and trust that some students accuse him of breaking, by later informing statehouse of his lack of knowledge and giving a green-light for the President’s late cancellation.
Students say the cancellation of the president’s visit denied the President Museveni an opportunity to address exclusively PhD students for the first time since he assumed power in 1986.
PML Daily has established that the PhD students had initially invited the President in February, 2019 for the convention that was then scheduled for April, 2019.
However, when State House indicated that the President would not attend, the convention was postponed to another day that State House would later communicate.
Students would later receive a confirmation from the head of protocol and the Presidential security unit that the president would be available on September 18.
Apparently, a security meeting to prepare for the President’s visit was held on September 16, in Makerere University Main Hall.
This meeting the PML Daily establishes was attended by the PhD Student Leaders, Makerere University GISO and other security officers attached to Makerere , and Special Forces Advance Team led by Captain Bashir Mugisha.
Adequate security and organizational measures were put in place to ensure the smooth running of the function.
As a result, convention organizers sent out invitations to all PhD students, Masters students, academic staff and some members of the University Management and Council.
Reports show that more than 500 participants were expected.
“The President’s visit was also announced on the university official webmail and the media to cover the President was also accredited. PhD students from other public universities were also invited. The programme was drawn to include paper presentations and speeches from the university management in addition to that of President Museveni,” sources say.
They add however that on September 17, 2019, at around 7:30pm, the organizers received a phone call from state house that the Key Note Speaker His Excellency the President had been stopped by their own Vice Chancellor – although the leaders didn’t tell this to their fellow students.
The message posted on their WhatsApp group read; “Dear Students, I have received a phone call from State House cancelling the President’s Visit tomorrow to Makerere University for Doctoral Convention”.
After the cancellation of the President’s coming, information started to circulate on social media that the convention was not going to take place as scheduled which undeniably, it did not take place.
A PhD student who spoke on condition of anonymity said; “Allowing the Vice Chancellor leverage to bar the Head of State from addressing his students was outrageous. Moreover, undermining PhD initiatives indicate serious hidden agenda. His conduct of changing face was below the cherished values and standard of this great university.”
Other sources indicate that the students were also expected to present some issues, which were beyond the university management to the president. Additionally, the Vice Chancellor was expecting the President on September 25, 2019 during MAK Agricultural week, and may have thought allowing his coming on 18th, may affect the later programme, which the student’s construed as a very selfish motive.
These could be some of the reasons why the Vice Chancellor supported the cancellation of the President’s programme. Consequently, the convention flopped.
Another student said that it’s not that Makerere was not prepared to host the President, but rather, the VC felt that His Visit on 18th would undermine the university event of next week, and hype the student’s event.
Nawangwe’s office was contacted for comment but had not responded by the time of publication.