President Yoweri Museveni has reiterated his support to Makerere University vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe in a battle that pits him against striking lecturers.
This is the second time that the president is commenting on the Makerere stalemate. While presiding over the institution's 69th graduation ceremony last month, Museveni described the vice chancellor as a decisive man when it comes to disciplining lecturers.
This week on Thursday at State House, Museveni told journalists that, Nawangwe is 'a serious man' who is trying to instill discipline at the university. He was making reference to the current staff strike that started on January 17 at Makerere -triggered by the suspension of staff association leaders.
The associations clashed with the university management after raising a red flag against the appointment of Bruce Kabaasa, and Ruhinda North MP Thomas Tayebwa to the university council.
Kabaasa who had served on the council, was appointed chairperson of the university appointments board, while Tayebwa chaired the finance committee of the council. The duo who represented the government on the previous council, was accused of using the positions for personal gain. Lecturers petitioned minister of Education and Sports, Janet Kataaha Museveni not to re-appoint them.
But as a result of the protestations, Nawangwe suspended Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the chairperson Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa), Bennet Magara, the chairperson Makerere Administrative Staff Association (Masa) and his general secretary Joseph Kalema for alleged indiscipline and inciting staff.
Nawangwe argued that the staff leaders were suspended because of their individual indiscipline case and not a representation of issues of the university staff. However, the staff have maintained that unless suspensions of their leaders are lifted, they will not return to work.
The university management had earlier on December 23, 2018 also announced the expulsion of 32 staff members and the suspension of 13 others for absconding from duty, failure to complete studies, financial fraud, assault and actions prejudicial to the university image, negligence from duty and insubordination.
On Thursday, Museveni indirectly referred to the case of Dr Stella Nyanzi who undressed in 2016 while protesting attempts to lock her out of office by Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) director, Prof Mahmood Mamdani. Nyanzi was then a research fellow at the institute and has since been expelled from Makerere.
Nyanzi is currently in Luzira prison after being charged with offensive communication and cyber harassment. The charges stem from a Facebook post which was construed to have disturbed the peace of the president when she insulted his late mother Esteri Kokundake.
Museveni said Nyanzi was initially tolerated and treated with kid gloves under the previous administrators.
"Prof Nawangwe I like him, I think he’s a serious man. He’s an engineer, professional of technology. Serious man. He wants us to have discipline in Makerere and some other people want to continue with the buyayes [fraud] which was there. You can imagine a professor who stripped naked and that one was tolerated and treated with kid gloves. But I think, now am with a serious type who wants you to understand that Makerere is a centre for study, not a centre for stupidity. The ones who try block him, I will back him to get rid of them. Let them go and make a fool of themselves somewhere else."
The suspended staff have petitioned the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga challenging their suspension and calling for a probe of the university management.