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Makerere University council quashes probe on suspended staff

FILE PHOTO: Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | An emergency meeting of the Makerere University Council, a supreme governing organ of the University has rejected the committees established to investigate matters arising out of staff suspensions over conflict of interest.

The meeting directed that the probe committees halt their operations and hand over the task to the University Appointments Board.

In a statement released shortly after the meeting which ended at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the Council members resolved that matters relating to the suspension of staff any other matter concerning the governance of the university be handled in accordance with the laws, policies and procedures governing the University.

The developments follow a decision by all members of staff to withdraw services from the university in protest of the suspension of Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the Chairperson Makerere University Academic Staff Association, Bennet Magara, the Chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association and his General Secretary, Joseph Kalema.

The three were accused of insubordination, alleged indiscipline and inciting staff. But their suspensions led to a strike that has paralyzed the university since the beginning of the year. The staff reaffirmed their industrial action on Monday, saying that they will only return to work when their colleagues are reinstated.

University Council chairperson Lorna Magara observed an urgent need to resolve the impasse in order to immediately restore normalcy at the institution. She noted that the current situation at the university had caused unnecessary loss to the students’ community as well as to parents and other stakeholders.

The members pointed out that the suspensions and subsequent establishment of committees by the Vice Chancellor presented a clear case of conflict of interest. Kiryowa Kiwanuka, a government appointee on the Council questioned the legality of the suspensions of staff and pinned the University management of escalating simple matters to unmanageable levels.

The meeting also discussed and challenged the Vice Chancellor’s recommendation to close the School of Law indefinitely.  The Vice Chancellor, professor Barnabas Nawangwe had recommended to council, the indefinite closure of the School for defying the authorities and continuing to mislead the staff associations to remain on strike.

Sources who attended the meeting say that they were told that the Vice Chancellor was not being honest with facts. Several heads of departments who were summarily summoned to appear before the council stated that they did not have the might to force the lecturers to return to work amid tension.

It was resolved that Council and Management continue engagements with staff and other stakeholders to ensure that normalcy returns to the university. The council also recommended that lectures should resume in all units of the University as the engagements continue.

“Council resolved that the MUASA executive shall immediately engage its membership with the view of returning the university to full normalcy by Friday 15, February 2019 and that management is directed to advise council in consultation with senate on the mechanism put in place to compensate students the time lost,” reads the statement issued after the meeting.

Speaking shortly after coming out of the meeting, Dr Michael Walimbwa, the MUASA General Secretary noted that the developments from Council were positive.

“I think this is a fair deal. We hope that the Appointments Board will expeditiously handle the matter of our suspended colleagues so that we return fully to work,” Dr. Walimbwa said.

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