Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) staff have threatened to lay down their tools in protest of what they say is an attempt by the sitting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Obua Celestine to deliberately refuse to retire.
Dr Celestine Obua was appointed as MUST VC through a search committee in 2014. He started his term of office on 24 October, 2014 and his 5-year tenure of office expires on 24 October, 2019.
On Thursday, the MUST joint staff general assembly convened to discuss the delayed process of searching for a new Vice Chancellor for the university.
The joint meeting was attended by members of National Union of Educational Institution (NUEI), Mbarara University of Science and Technology Senior Administration Forum (MUSTSAF), the academic staff Association (MUSTASA), Deans of students, Deputy Deans, heads of departments, and members of SENATE.
According to MUSTASA General Secretary, Julius Taremwa, the Vice Chancellor is conflicted and he seeks to have his contract automatically renewed without going through the search process. Taremwa says this is against the university policies.
“The sitting Vice Chancellor has his own interests well known and he wants an automatic renewal. He does not want the search committee to work. The process has been sabotaged and interfered with,” said Taremwa.
“I will use a phrase of Bishop Combon. ‘We shall save Africa by Africans’, we shall save MUST by MUST. It is us to save ourselves or bewitch ourselves,” said Taremwa.
He added that Prof Obua is using his authority to block the search committee from conducting the search processes to appoint a new Vice Chancellor, which will create a power vacuum within the university.
“The truth is that the search process is being undermined due to a conflict of interest. The VC is using all his power to undermine the search committee to fail the search process from going on,” he said.
Taremwa added that the university Council was contacted to brief the university on the progress of the search process but Council only referred them to the Attorney General.
“MUST as an institution that writes a book called Human Resource Manual and with first class Professors has to take it on to the Attorney General for interpretation? Why should we write a document we can’t interpret? he asked.
“It is 6 months down the road, meaning that literally we have less than one month to expedite. We call upon you to discuss this problem and how we can take it forward for sure we are behind schedule,” he told members.
Dr Gad Ruzaaza, one of the lecturers at the University encouraged staff members to remain strong even when their constitutional rights are denied.
He said “days of following sheepishly are long gone”.
After deliberating on the matter, the university staff members jointly supported the stepping down of the university secretary for investigations. They also agreed to have the VC retire.
“From the evidence presented, the University Secretary (Melchior Byaruhanga), who is also the accounting officer must step aside as investigations proceed for avoidance of interference. The Vice Chancellor should be retired in public interest immediately and the search committee should be empowered to start the process of searching the next Vice Chancellor with immediate effect,” read the document containing resolutions of the meeting.
Staff also gave the university Council which is sitting today, Friday an ultimatum of 14 days to search for a competent Vice chancellor or else they (staff) will declare a strike.
“Basing on all the above, we hereby give notice of laying down our tools if the university council does not expeditiously address our demands within 14 days,” reads the document.
SoftPower News made efforts to contact the Vice Chancellor for a comment on the allegations but his office said Prof Obua together with the university secretary, Byaruhanga are in Boston USA for two weeks vacation and return back on 15 April 2019.