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Army deployment angers Makerere

Makerere University main block

Makerere University main block

Today, as one enters the gates of Makerere University, there’s a noticeable presence of heavily armed military police troops.

At each of the three main entrances, groups of three-to-five military police officers stand sentry. Even on the various passages within the university, groups of military police officers roam around. They normally start patrols around the university when it clocks 6pm.

Their main camp is near Livingstone hall, where about 100 military police soldiers set up tents. Another group of about 50 are camped close to the nearby Africa hall. The impression one gets is of an academic institution under siege by the state afraid of its growing reputation as a hotbed for political opposition activities.

Averting strikes?

For years, Makerere has seen several student and staff strikes, some of which turned out deadly. Ordinarily, the military police is supposed to be the last resort force to be deployed when regular police fail to contain an unruly situation.

However, insider sources within the staff body intimate that: “Government cannot take chances anymore because a student strike in Makerere can easily spill over to the city centre to create an [popular] uprising…”

“So, the plan is to have the military police to intimidate everyone under the guise of keeping security.”

They settled in at the invitation of the university administration in November 2018 after a students’ strike over tuition increment loomed. Prof Eria Hisali, the deputy vice chancellor, authored the invitation to the forces with the claim that one of the prominent political forces in Uganda was plotting an insurgency through Makerere.

His view drew on Makerere’s contribution to political activism dating back to the 1980s when the NRA recruited majority of students to actively take part in the bush war which brought Yoweri Museveni to power.

On that basis, Hisali warned that history would possibly repeat itself and that the emerging ‘People Power’ movement would take advantage of the masses at this hill to champion a revolution to overthrow the incumbent regime.

So, about 50 military police soldiers were dispatched to Makerere University with their first mission being strict restriction of both students and members of staff from accessing university premises.

Inside sources reveal that among the deployed were plainclothes officers for espionage. All this went on almost unnoticed but it was in December 2018 that the soldiers’ stay at the university started to bite.

They started by limiting access to St Augustine and St Francis chapels. Whoever didn’t abide by the orders faced the soldiers’ wrath.

“I was forced to roll over the stretch of Livingstone Drive. My friends were frog-jumped, slapped and asked to vacate the university with immediate effect till we all complied in fear,” says a brutality victim who preferred not to be mentioned.

Consequently, the clergy of the two churches penned complaints to the university administration. However, no formal response to the matter has ever been produced to-date. In the same month, former deputy vice chancellor in charge of administration, Prof Ernest Okello Ogwang, also fell victim to the brutality. He was beaten after failing to identify himself to the inquisitive troops.

Interviewed for a comment yesterday, UPDF spokesman Brig Richard Karemire said military police troops are camped at Makerere with the full knowledge of the university administration. Karemire said they have never received any formal complaint about soldiers beating up students or residents at the institution.

“It’s not true that soldiers beat up people; if you have that information, please give us a specific case to create action,” he said by telephone.

The brute force of the military police extended to the students’ social events. On the night of February 15, 2019 as students had gathered for merrymaking at the annual Mitchelex carnival, about 50 baton-wielding military policemen raided at 11:50pm and ordered the students to disperse.

The students protested. What followed was a violent confrontation that culminated in beatings as students pelted the soldiers with empty bottles. Ironically, it was regular police which came in to calm the military and tried to save the students from sustaining further injuries.

On the evening of March 18, Dr Ronald Luwangula, a senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, nursed wounds after he was beaten by military police. Luwangula was a victim of military police’s high-handedness as they were disbanding students from a guild rally held at Freedom Square.

Luwangula had just finished conducting a lecture. As he moved towards his office, he was ambushed by three soldiers who beat him senseless before security guards attached to Senaca Security group rescued him.

Neither Prof Okello nor Dr Luwangula has opened cases against the perpetrators of violence which they suffered. A police officer attached to the university police post said the military have usurped police powers. He also intimated that the military police has no plans of vacating the university.

“Our budget and facilitation was cut and no explanation has ever been given…we are also idle these days because all assignments have been taken over by the military,” he said.

“Actually those guys are still around because the 2021 general election is around the corner.”

Student leaders are unhappy with the way military police took over security at all halls.

Arthur Twesigye, a resident at Mitchell hall, said: “As hall residents, we have our own culture where we formulate local security teams but the military doesn’t allow them to function.”

Newly-elected guild president Julius Kateregga told The Observer on Saturday that he is going to make every effort to force the military out of the university.

“This is not a military base and we are going to appeal to parliament to order for their removal because they have made our life miserable on campus,” he said.


+6 #1 WADADA roger 2019-04-24 10:54
But what is wrong with the presence of soldiers at the University, this is a military state ruled and managed by the military, not even the police can be trusted, soon they will be the ones lecturing
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0 #2 Jonathan Luyirika 2019-04-24 23:29
History repeats itself but It's stupid people who repeat the same mistakes.

In 1978 the military men were deployed heavily at Makerere university following the strike by the students who were opposing the forced admission of Amin's son (Taban Amin) at Makerere university.

Some students were killed and others injured during the strike.
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+1 #3 Zaitun 2019-04-25 09:34
Who is this Prof Eria Hisali licking his snailed toungue for the blood of innocent students?

He is now on record for welcoming a military detachment on the campus! If any one soul is lost on the cmpus, he will have to pay for it with his own.

Unfortunately, I find my people, Ugandans, so dispersed as if they do not have problems looming in the offin.

We are heading for an Algerian/ a Sudanese style of struggle. That day, non of these traitors should be allowed to flee the country- starting with all these cockroches coming from nowhere to own the country while turning Ugandans to slaves!!

Everything has a beginning that has to justify the end. Let us grab any justificantion to force all these thieves and gangsters out of Ugandan political and economic system.

In which part of the world will you find nationals dying like flies due to poverty while their daily life is controlled by foreigners, if not only in Uganda?
Have we become fools?
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+2 #4 Lakwena 2019-04-25 10:17
Quoting WADADA roger:
But what is wrong with the presence of soldiers at the University, this is a military state ruled and managed by the military, not even the police can be trusted, soon they will be the ones lecturing

In other words Wadada, in spite of their raw power and stolen wealth, like the ones the world saw in Al Bashir's house a week ago; why are dictators, their family members, sycophants, etc. not the happiest people on earth?
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