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Makerere University students lose bid to block suspension of guild elections

Makerere University

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The High Court in Kampala has dismissed with costs an application in which four Makerere University students wanted an interim order restraining the institution from continuing to enforce its decision to suspend the students’ leadership.

The students are: Joshua Muhwezi, Shamim Nambassa, Kelvin Joshua Luyombya, and Muzafaluh Kabuulwa.

The Civil Division Judge Esta Nambayo on Thursday dismissed the application on grounds that there was no evidence to show that the applicants will suffer irreparable damages if at all their prayers are not granted.

On July 15th, Makerere University Council suspended the students guild and indefinitely deferred elections for the university’s 88th Guild President after Betungura Bewatte, a student at Uganda Christian University-UCU was killed.

Betungura died on July 11th, 2022 in the clashes that pitted supporters of the National Unity Platform-NUP against those of the Forum for Democratic Change FDC on the last day of the campaigns.

Following the incident, the Council then set up a six-member committee to review all operations of the student leadership before a final decision is made.

A month later, the committee released a report to the council which was never made public, but part of the resolutions that were later made by the Council was to approve the Makerere University Students Guild statute subject to the amendments proposed by the council.

Court heard that the students guild, caretaker government, and senior common room were also suspended in the resolutions.

According to the council, students were supposed to vote for a Constitutional Review Commission through universal suffrage in every college and hall of residence.

The commission had to include representatives from each of the colleges, each of the halls of residence, the Jinja campus, and disabled students. The University council further noted that the Constitution Review Commission shall provide students leadership at the university in the interim, but students went to court arguing that they never took part in the decision-making process.

They asked the court to declare that the suspension of the Guild elections, students Guild, caretaker government, and the senior common room was illegal and contrary to the 1995 constitution, the University and other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001, and the Makerere University Guild constitution as amended.

They listed Makerere University Council, its Chairperson Lorna Magara, and the University Chancellor Professor Barnabas Nawangwe as the respondents to the case.

The students also asked the court to issue a permanent injunction restraining the respondents from enforcing the contentious suspension orders. Further, the court was asked to quash the suspension of Lumumba Hall Speaker Suleiman Namwoza who was suspended for convening an online meeting which was attended by former Guild aspirants, intended to push the reinstatement of the Guild leadership.

The students filed an application for Judicial Review and another for an interim injunction pending the disposal of the main case.

But in response, the respondents asked court to dismiss this application saying the Student Guild Constitutional Review Commission was established and is implementing its mandate to ensure that the Guild leadership is elected and installed.

While relying on the affidavit of Yusuf Kiranda, the University Secretary, the court heard that the Guild Constitutional Review Commission consists of students, duly elected by fellow students and therefore there is no representative of the University on the Guild Constitutional Review Commission.

The respondents further argued that halting the process will disenfranchise more than 40,000 students who will be denied an opportunity to have a student leadership that articulates students’ issues with the management of the University.

In her ruling, Nambayo agreed with the respondents and dismissed the interim application saying the applicants will not suffer irreparable injury if this application is not granted because the actions complained of can be reversed if the application for Judicial Review is successful.

“Evidence on record does not show that the applicants are representing the students’ community. It is my view that if the court grants this application and later finds that the main application has no merit there will have been an unnecessary delay in the process which may be prejudicial to the other interested parties”, said Nambayo.

As such, she has added that the balance of convenience is in favor of the respondents and therefore there is no merit in this application hence dismissing it from court with costs.

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URN

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