Makerere University striking staff have said they are open to negotiations with the university management to resolve the current impasse, arguing the strike is not only in their interest but also the students.
The academic and administrative staff at Uganda’s oldest and biggest institution of higher learning have been on strike for the last nine days demanding among others the lifting by the Vice Chancellor of suspension of three leaders of the staff Associations. Among those suspended was the Chairman of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association, Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi.
They want the university to reverse the suspension of Dr. Kamunyu Muhwezi and two other leaders of the administrative staff, as a condition for the strike to be called off.
They also demand for Management to withdraw two members (Thomas Tayebwa and Bruce Balaba Kabasa) who were recently appointed to the University Council. They said the appointment of the duo to the Council flouted the rules.
On Monday, the striking staff jointly addressed a news conference at the Makerere main campus in Kampala, reiterating that their industrial action seeks to ensure the environment at the university favors everyone.
“It is not a crisis like the media is reporting. It’s like a water logged football pitch. Players can’t play in a waterlogged field. Spectators won’t benefit. We want to clear the pitch so everyone can have a clear playing field,” said Prof Edward Nector Mwavu, the Deputy Chairman of MUASA on Monday.
“Students should learn in an environment where the people who are supposed to serve them are happy, focused and not worried. We continue to engage the management, to open the channels so as to resolve this impasse as soon as possible”.
Similarly, Twesigye Bruce, the Chairman of the National Union of Educational Institutions said the issues at hand are internal in nature, and wondered why the management has failed to dialogue in order to have the strike called off.
“This is an appeal to management. This is an in-house matter that should have been resolved through dialogue and negotiations. We have offered ourselves and we continue to do so. We have met management, but I don’t know whether they had the blessing of the Vice Chancellor because he has continued to say there is no problem in Makerere,” Twesigye said.
The MUASA Chairman, Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi was also present at the news but deliberately did not make any comment.
Meanwhile, the MUASA Legal Advisor, Dr Kakungulu Mayambala described the suspension of Dr Muhwezi and the two others as unconstitutional. He said that the VC lacks the power legally, to suspend Association leaders.
Mayambala also challenged the legality of the committee which was recently instituted by Prof Nawangwe to handle the matter, citing a conflict of interest since it is the same Nawangwe that effected the suspensions.
Still on Monday, law dons at the Makerere University School of Law issued a signed document giving legal opinion on the current stalemate. They argued that the suspension of the three Association leaders was unlawful as it contravenes the Constitution, the University and Tertiary Institutions Act as well as the Labour Unions Act.
The law dons have advised the Vice Chancellor to withdraw the suspensions stating only then will it be possible for the Associations and Management to discuss their grievances in a calm and peaceful atmosphere.