KAMPALA – A PhD student has said Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has no right to stop him from authoring newspaper articles that are critical of the public institution.
Mr Yusuf Serunkuma, who is pursuing his PhD studies at the Makerere University Institute of Social Research, said his rights to free speech are provided for under Article 29 of the Constitution, which Prof Nawangwe cannot stop.
“It is an unacceptable departure and indeed a shameless negation of the freedom of speech and expression which right is jealously protected by Article 29 of the Constitution…Personally, indeed in your official capacity, you lack the power to censor our client in the enjoyment of his constitutional rights to free expression,” his March 13 letter issued by his lawyers of Parkhill Advocates reads in part.
The letter was in response to that authored by Prof Nawangwe on March 10, 2020, warning Serunkuma, who is a columnist in the Observer Newspaper and a regular guest on radio and television talk shows, to desist from publishing articles that damage the reputation of the public institution.
Prof Nawangwe said the behaviour is in contravention of the University‘s Communication Policy.
“It has been brought to my attention that you continue to write articles in the mass media and on social media platforms which are detrimental to the good reputation of Makerere University. In your articles, you have made personal attacks on officers of the University including making racist and xenophobic comments,’ Nawangwe’s letter reads in part.
‘This kind of behaviour is not only in contravention of the University‘s Communication Policy but also damages the university’s image as an international and tolerant institution and is not acceptable,” it adds.
But Mr Serunkuma has hit at Prof Nawangwe, calling his orders illegal and unacceptable.
‘We wish to register here and now that whereas other people have submitted to your indiscretion and illegal exercise of the power entrusted to you by your office, our client will not take it in lying down in that regard. Should you make the mistake and be minded to implement the threats and illegalities contained in your letter, we will sue and seek remedies from the court against you personally,’ the letter adds.
Ever since he took over as Makerere University Vice-Chancellor in 2017, Prof Nawangwe has used an iron fist to enforce what he calls discipline among students and academic staff. He has expelled or suspended students, academic and non-teaching staff for participating in demonstrations.