For a week now, the army has waged a merciless attack against Makerere University’s student protestors in the full glare of cameras but President Museveni shocked his ruling NRM MPs yesterday when he said he was not aware soldiers had been deployed at the university.
Museveni said he learnt of the military deployment at Makerere during a briefing on Monday.
“The military is not trained to quell demonstrations, they are trained to kill. Those students are not enemies, they are young children, grandchildren who need to be guided to do the right thing,” Museveni said yesterday during a meeting with NRM MPs at the Office of the President Conference Hall behind the Parliamentary buildings convened to resolve the standoff between MPs and government over the distribution of hand hoes to farmers.
Museveni yesterday ordered the withdrawal of the military to allow police to take full charge of the situation. He also promised to send a team to Makerere to investigate the root cause of the protests.
The meeting at the Office of the President Conference Hall was also meant to update MPs on the general security situation in the country as well as the ongoing students’ strike at Makerere University in protest at what they call an unfair 15% cumulative increment in tuition fees, the doubling of functional fees, vice chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe’s highhandedness and the appalling state of halls of residences Museveni’s wife, Janet Kataaha, was meant to address the MPs on the strike but skipped the meeting.
She, however, circulated a statement on her social media platforms, justifying the military’s intervention to restore calm at the university. Since the protests broke out last week, the military and police launched a violent onslaught on the students. The situation got ugly when soldiers made night raids into students’ halls of residence, beat them up and destroyed property.
The raids have since drawn wide condemnation. For instance, the US embassy in Kampala issued a statement on Monday condemning the military’s brutality and urged government to allow Ugandans to peacefully exercise their basic rights.
“The U.S. Mission in Uganda is increasingly concerned about the violence at Makerere University in response to ongoing protests against the proposed tuition increases. Footage of security services attacking unarmed students in their residence halls and attacks on journalists covering the protests are especially disturbing,” partly reads the statement posted online by the embassy.
“This heavy-handed response by security services is uncalled for, and is a direct affront to the freedoms of assembly, speech and expression guaranteed by Uganda’s Constitution. We urge the Government of Uganda to allow all Ugandans to exercise their basic rights peacefully and without fear,” the Americans further said.
Museveni yesterday disagreed with statements by both his wife and the police that linked the strike to politics. He pointed a finger of blame at the breakdown in communication between the university’s administrators and the students’ leadership.
He told his MPs that he had spoken to the chairperson of the University Council, Lorna Magara and the guild president, Julius Kateregga, and urged them to resolve the issues through dialogue.
SHS 8BN FOR HOES
To resolve a disagreement between the MPs and ministers over the ongoing distribution of 18 million hand hoes, the caucus meeting agreed that the executive initiates a Shs 8 billion supplementary budget request for procurement of eight million more hoes.
Last week, a section of MPs criticized the manner in which the hoes were being distributed because many of them had been sidelined by ministers. This group had started collecting signatures for a parliamentary motion that would compel the executive to put the distribution of the hoes directly under MPs.
During the meeting, Museveni told the MPs that the second batch of hoes will be distributed to all the constituencies. He said technical people will be directly in charge much as MPs will be involved in the distribution. The hoes are being distributed in line with Museveni’s 2016 campaign pledge to boost food security and incomes for small landowners and gradually transform Uganda.