Council to Blame for Prolonged Makerere Staff Strike, Says Prof Ndebesa

Makerere University historian, Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa. (Photo: Alex Esagala)

Makerere University history don, Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa has castigated the university Council, the highest body that governs the institution, for failing to resolve the current impasse that has resulted into over three weeks of staff strike.

Prof Ndebesa says the University Council has failed at the role of mediating between different competing interests. He accuses Council of taking sides.

Staff, both administrative and academic at Uganda’s oldest and biggest institution of higher learning have been on strike for almost a month now, demanding among others the lifting of suspension of the Chairman of the academic staff (MUASA), Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi and two other staff Association leaders.

Earlier this week, the staff held a Joint General Assembly and resolved to maintain their industrial action despite appeals by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, to return to class. The staff insisted that the University Management reverses the suspension of the three leaders.

Some of the lecturers are teaching but others have abided by the resolutions of the joint staff Associations.

The Vice Chancellor has issued repeated warnings to those on strike ordering them to resume their duties or face penalties for absconding from duty. The staff remain defiant and law dons have insisted the decision by the VC to suspend Kamunyu and the colleagues was illegal and thus the strike is justified.

In a sitting this week, Council deliberated on the impasse, however no concrete decision was taken by the body to return the university to normal operations. Council resolved “to continue engagement with staff and our stakeholders to ensure normalcy returns to the university”.

It added that all matters relating to the suspended staff or any other matter concerning the governance of the university will be handled in accordance with the laws, policies and procedures governing the university.

Council also resolved that the Appointments committee immediately convenes to handle matters of Dr Kamunyu and two other suspended Association leaders.

But Prof Ndebesa says “Makerere has failed to manage conflicts because of among other reasons lack of effective authority”.

“The main authority at a public University in Uganda is the governing council. What is it doing now! It is supposed to mediate between different competing interests but it appears it is either helpless, clueless about challenges at Mak. Or is taking sides?” the historian says.

He argues that; “When there are competing interests between two sides as indeed it is between the VC and the associations at Makerere, then the Council which should keep some authority distance from the two should come in and mediate or act”.

Ndebesa equally cast blame on the Ministry of Education as well as the University Chancellor, Dr Ezra Suruma for failing to make an intervention into the current crisis.

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