JAVIRA SSEBWAMI – As we ponder over the unanswered questions surrounding Makerere strikes, we need to realise and ask ourselves the causes of these unending riots in Uganda’s oldest institution of high learning. When we put on the right lenses, we are able to at least spot that most of these strikes are fundamentally political, looking at the present reality and the state of affairs at the University.
So wild that Dr Abel Rwendeire’s committee never pointed out this in their report concerning Makerere affairs
For the past years, it has been my privilege to stay at Makerere, as a journalism student, I have been cynical about the ceaseless strikes and the status of affairs at the institution, with that in mind, I tried to establish the forces behind these riots.
Contrary to banters that these strike are a result of poor engagements between the University administration, teaching staff and the student’s leadership, it is far beyond imagination.
In a conversation with an ex-Makerere high ranking official, he revealed that these strikes are sponsored by officials within to fight their wars and trading blame games over their incompetence.
I have no reason to disagree with him; a number of riots seen at Makerere in the last years are allegedly said to have been sponsored by those who were eying the VC seat. Of course, at some point this truth has manifested itself for all of us to see and different realities added to this state of affairs.
The past years sparked off the disagreements between the then Deputy Vice Chancellor now (VC) Prof Barnabas Nawangwe and the then VC Prof Dumba-Ssentamu but the resultant ends were sponsored strikes by the “invisible hands”.
While trading their blame games, Prof Dumba-Ssentamu wrote to Prof Nawangwe and accused him of conniving with students to incite strikes as a way of tarnishing Dumba’s reign.
Although Nawangwe dismissed the claims through his unending public relations posts, it remains clear for us to see that the duo have always used the students to fight their wars.
Similar accusations came during Prof Venansius Baryamureeba’s leadership as the VC; he accused the University Council of fighting him while conniving with students.
On many occasions, we have seen, strikes happening whenever there is any controversies at the institution with sections of students’ leaders taking sides and accusing others of receiving money from the university officials.
I believe all rightful members of the society would question themselves why an institution with hundreds of professors including those with conflict resolution doctorates fails to solve such grievances.
Currently, the controversies surrounding the 15 per cent tuition increment for new students, as proposed by guild leadership is contested, a close member of the committee, revealed to me they conducted several indoor meetings with university officials and agreed on key among others, protection from the angry students, receiving Shs 35M each and facilitations to Nairobi in the name of inquiring.
As we speak, there’s a sections of the university officials who are violently against the increment and are reportedly engaging students to fight the already effected development plus reveling money sharing deals agreed by students and the officials.
Another illusion also begins with the lecturers while putting their demands to the university council; they do so counting on students.
In various classes, some lecturers would say “wakeup and demand for what belongs to you” of course indirectly inciting students to fight for them
The university and academic staff take students for granted and with no stake in university affairs but involving them to fighting their political calculated wars, so absurd.
The academic staff exploits the advantage at stake that the student population is disgruntled over their unheard cries by officials and find themselves with no alternative but to participate.
Nevertheless, these students are seen not only to be used by the administration alone but the external forces to0 to see certain policies passed or scrapped.
When the university resolved to scrap meals from halls of residents early this year, there are allegations that food service providers facilitated students in “gold” to fight the development. A student from Lumumba hall said one food service company facilitated the process of students’ petition to parliament and assured them legal protection.
There are prominent names at Makerere known for inciting riots among students, but when arrested by police, they are immediately released on orders from “above” and without being charged.
In my prediction if not prophesy the trend of strikes, in the next few years, will multiply as the people in administration are continuing the infightings for selfish interests.
The university’s image is repeatedly tainted black by students and officials for selfish interests.
Javira Ssebwami is a budding and insightful journalist in areas of political analysis, civic rights, health and Current Affairs. He is also reporter with PML Daily, a flagship news product of Post Media Limited