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Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi: I cannot kneel before man

`My biggest fear is if the unlawful suspension sets a precedent that is allowed to undermine the association and rights of workers’

INTERVIEW | AGNES E NANTABA | Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi (PhD) is the chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA). He is also the Publicity Secretary for the University Convocation (Alumni Association) and a lecturer for Hospitality and Tourism management at the University. Kamunyu made headline news following his suspension which led some university staff to go on a strike that lasted close to a month and stalled work at Uganda’s premier university.

Kamunyu was suspended by University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe for allegedly persistently engaging in acts of misconduct and incitement with the intent to cause disobedience and strikes among other cases.

Kamunyu denies the charges, arguing that the disputes at Makerere University would not have happened if leaders upheld the rule of law and embraced decision ethics at all times.

“When a leader of Africa’s premier university chooses draconian rule other than systems under the pretext of causing discipline, then, we must worry,” says Kamunyu.

“If all Public Leaders worked hard to build corruption proof institutions, processes and served common interests, we would have less wasteful agitation and save the best for our children”.

Business resumed at the university after the University Council offered to resolve the dispute between MUASA and the VC.

Kamunyu says he is committed to duty and seeks to achieve transparency and accountability at all levels.

He says, “If it’s a sin to believe in that, then I would rather dwell in the sin as a person because it facilitates my wellbeing and it makes me the person I am”.

The same values he stands for caused him to be expelled from Makerere University Business School (MUBS) in 2005 after a battle in Kangaroo courts fighting for the rights of fellow staff members. Kamunyu had just returned from pursuing a Master of Science in Hospitality Management from the Technological University of Dublin. He resumed lecturing at MUBS on the Bachelor of Hotel Management programme and was shortly elected chairman welfare committee for Makerere University Business Academic Staff Association (MUBASA). When he started agitating for staff rights, he was axed. That left him with a part-time teaching position at Makerere University until he became full time staff in May 2006 as an assistant lecturer in the department of geography which was later transferred to the school of forestry in the college of agriculture. Kamunyu was later confirmed into university service. He later embarked on his PhD in destination marketing at Makerere University graduating in 2015. In 2014, when the Public Relations office position for MUASA fell vacant, he applied and got it.

“That is when I started articulating positions of MUASA,” he says, “I believe in transformative practices committed to good ethical decisions”.

In 2017, Kamunyu competed for MUASA chairperson in a heated election, won and started on a contract that expires in November 2019.

Kamunyu says he does not regret fighting for the transformation of Makerere University. He says his actions are guided by the recommendations made in the 2017 Rwendeire Report which, among others, include reforming the University Council. Kamunyu notes that the struggle has caused him trouble because it threatens the status-quo. He says he fights for transparency, accountability and talks with sincerity and honesty.

His values resonate with her mother’s motto: “I cannot kneel before God in the evening and wake up in the morning to kneel before men for a living. I will work hard with my hands”.

Kamunyu is the seventh in the family of 13 born in Nyabwiina village on the border of Buhweju in Sheema district just below the mountains. His recalls his father being committed to education and supporting the establishment of community projects; including schools and churches.

He started school at Nyabwiina Model Primary School, joined Masheruka Secondary School and St Joseph’s Secondary School for advanced level. He went to do a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in Morogoro Tanzania graduating in 2000. He is married with three children.

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