Makerere VC Wants Law School Closed for Fueling Ongoing Staff Strike


The Makerere University School of Law.
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Makerere University, Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has recommended that the University’s School of Law be closed indefinitely, amid a staff strike that has so far lasted over three weeks.

Nawangwe was Tuesday presenting a status report to the University Council, following a directive by the Council Chairperson, Lorna Magara, requiring the Vice Chancellor to have it availed, clearly enumerating the actions taken to resolve the impasse between Management and staff.

Nawangwe says, the Law School has been instrumental in inciting of violence of students and lecturers from other Colleges, to continue with the strike.

Inspite of the fact that engagements are ongoing, the standoff remains predominant at the School of Law where the school leadership has openly declared acts of defiance, reads part of the report in this website’s possession.

“The continued defiance by the School of Law, meaning that the students will not be taught for a fourth week running is likely to lead to a deterioration of discipline among the students with unforeseen consequences,” he said.

“Given the position taken by the School of Law, to defy authority and incite the rest of the university to follow their bad example, it is recommended that the School of Law be closed indefinitely. The staff should be required to hand over University property and the students advised to return home and await further instructions,” the Vice Chancellor (VC) recommended.

He told the Council that law dons give misleading advice to the Executives of staff Associations to demand an unconditional lifting of the suspension of MUASA Chairman, Dr. Deus K. Muhwezi as a condition for calling off the strike.

Prof Nawangwe says that students were being mobilized by Executives of Staff Associations to join them and mount pressure on Management to unconditionally reinstate Dr Kamunyu.

Will the VC relent on lifting the Suspension of the staff leaders?

The controversial Vice Chancellor, remains defiant and says lifting the suspension will breed more indiscipline at the University.

“The Management on the other hand maintains, and rightly so, that such an action would set a very bad precedent of impunity. It would be possible in future for someone to do wrong but just because they can mobilize others, no disciplinary action would be taken,” he notes.

“This would greatly undermine disciplinary powers of Management as well as set a wrong future precedence. Unconditional lifting is also not provided for in the Human Resources Manual of the University and is thus illegal and unlawful,” he adds.

He claims that the “perpetrators of the stand-off want to create a situation in the University which makes her ungovernable.”

According to Nawangwe, all Colleges have since resumed full teaching including CEDAT, CHS, COVAB, CEES, CONAS, CHUSS, COBAMS, COCIS with partial teaching in CAES, with the exception of the School of Law where no teaching has been reported.

But on Tuesday, a group of students from the School of law in a statement, accused the university of “telling lies” about the ongoing situation at the University.

“Makerere University has 10 Colleges, out of these, only two colleges (college of sciences and college of engineering Art and design) are currently having lectures and this fact is confirmed by the student leadership,” read their statement.

“The representation by the University’s administration that lectures are ongoing within the entire University save for the school of law is patently false and borders on being divisive,” they added.

Background

On January 17, Prof Nawangwe suspended Dr Muhwezi Kamunyu with immediate effect “for persistently engaging in acts of misconduct and incitement with the intent to cause disobedience and strikes.”

He had earlier suspended two other leaders of the administrative staff Association (MASA) including Joseph Kalema (Secretary) and Bennet Magara (Chairperson).

The law dons would later on January 28, in a statement regard the suspension of the staff leaders as illegal and that the VC violated their freedom of Association as well as academic freedoms.

In their legal opinon, the law dons advised the Vice Chancellor to withdraw the suspensions.

Makerere University legal scholar, Prof Jean John Barya, who is also an expert in labour law told a news conference in January that by suspending the three Association leaders, the VC violated their freedom of Association as well as academic freedoms.

He said that all the allegations against the staff Association leaders relate to their lawful acts in leading and representing staff.

He said that Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike by members of labour unions. The law don further cited Articles 68 and 93 of the Universities and Tertiary Institutions Act of 2001 which establish Associations and that members of staff shall be free to join and form Associations of their choice.

Regarding the legality of the suspension, the School of Law argued that the conditions (including cutting their salary and restricting them from accessing the university premises) under which Dr Kamunyu, and the two others were suspended were on the basis of them being university employees which he says contravenes with the Labour Unions Act, since the acts for which the three were penalized were done while conducting their duties as representatives of staff.

The legal scholars further contend that for these leaders to mobilize employees to collectively withdraw labour can not constitute “incitement with intent to cause disobedience and/or strike to undermine the university administration” as cited by the Vice Chancellor.

The legal opinion whose copy SoftPower News obtained was signed by Makerere law dons including Prof Joe Oloka Onyango, Prof Jean John Barya, Dr Sylvia Tamale, Daniel Ruhweza, Ronald Mayambala, Fredrick Mpanga, Busingye Kabumba, Robert Kirunda among others whose signatures together constitute majority at the School of Law.

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