Nawangwe now asks MUK Council to close ‘defiant’ Law school

Emboldened by a rare support to a Makerere University Vice-Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, now ups his hard stance and asks the University Council to close the School of Law indefinitely and order all lecturers to hand over university property and the students to go home.

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MAKERERE | Professor Barnabas Nawangwe has asked the University Council to endorse the closure of School of Law indefinitely, citing defiance by the School leadership amid an impasse created by sit-down strike.

In a seven-page assessment of the situation at Makerere University — that is in a crisis triggered by the vice-chancellor’s suspension of top leadership of academic and administrative staff associations — Nawangwe said the defiance and demands by some university leadership would set a wrong precedent if acknowledged.

Sendo Cleaners

“In spite of the fact that engagements are ongoing, the standoff is still in place predominantly in the School of Law where the school leadership has openly declared leadership of the acts of defiance,” Nawangwe said in the February 11 report addressed to University Council chair Lorna Magara.

Nawangwe last month suspended Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the chairman of the academic staff association (Muasa), Makerere Administrative Staff Association chairperson Bennet Magara and the secretary Joseph Kalema.

But Associate Professor Christopher Mbazira, the acting principal of the School of Law, said the vice-chancellor has no powers to suspend the staff.

In the letter to the Council, Nawangwe accused the School of Law of misleading executives of staff associations into demanding an unconditional lifting of the suspension of Dr Deus Kamunyu. Muhwezi as a condition for calling the General Assembly to lift the purported strike.

“Students were being mobilised by executives of staff associations to join them and put pressure on management to unconditionally reinstate Kamunyu,” he said.

“It is now clear, that the perpetrators of the stand-off want to create a situation in the university which makes it ungovernable.”

The vice-chancello said such an action would set a bad precedent of impunity.

“It would be possible in future for someone to do wrong but just because they can mobilise others, no disciplinary action would be taken. This would greatly undermine disciplinary powers of management as well as set a wrong future precedence,” he said.

In the unsigned copy of the assessment report, the vice-chancellor said all colleges have since resumed full teaching except the School of Law, adding that the continued defiance means that the students will not be taught for a fourth week running.

“This is likely to lead to a deterioration of discipline among the students with unforeseen consequences,” Prof Nawangwe’s report reads.

“Given the position taken by the School of Law, to defy authority and incite the rest of the university to follow their bad example, it is recommended that the School of Law be closed indefinitely. The staff should be required to hand over university property and the students advised to return home and await further instructions.”

‘Nail and Hammer’ approach

Prof Nawangwe has adopted the nail and hammer approach at Makerere and appears to see any dissenting views as a direct challenge to his authority that must be crushed with the hammer at hand.

Since taking over the highest administrative office in Makerere, he has suspended several students indefinitely, but the suspensions were often overlooked until he went after Dr Kamunyu and other staff leadership.

He also previously dismissed 45 members of academic staff, including controversial researcher Stella Nyanzi.

But President Museveni last week lent his support to Nawangwe’s leadership, saying the university, saying the vice-chancellor is proof that people from remote parts of the country can do better jobs than those who have been rotating in Kampala.

Nawangwe is from the eastern border district of Busia.

“I want to congratulate Prof Nawangwe and his team for being decisive in disciplining lecturers and staff. It is very embarrassing to see a so-called lecturer in court for raping a young girl and he is still teaching. That is rubbish, they should exit,” Museveni said.

Emboldened by the backing from the president, Nawangwe, who is now being sarcastically likened to a Resident District Commissioner whp are appointed by the president to oversee districts on his behalf, moved to defend his stance amid all the pressure.

Following a February 8 University Council meeting in Kampala, the Vice Chancellor and Management of the University were directed to end the crisis and see to it that teaching resumed at the university.

The council also asked the university to provide a status report indicating the actions taken to resolve the impasse.

However, while the council was looking an end to the impasse, Nawangwe appears to have concluded that more suspensions, this time of a complete school with all its students and staff, would be the best solution to end the crisis.

While Prof Nawangwe said in his report that all colleges are teaching except that of agriculture and environment science and Law school, some law dons have contested it as a fabrication to mislead the council.

“The record must be set straight; Makerere University has 10 colleges. Of these, only two colleges (College of Health Sciences and the College of Engineering Art and Design) are presently having lectures and this fact is confirmed by the student leaders of the different college student leadership that have hereunder appended their confirmatory signatures,” MLS said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The representation by the University Administration, that lectures are ongoing within the entire university save for School of Law is patently false and borders on being divisive. Furthermore, the claim that students are the ones voluntarily boycotting strike is equally false.”

Some of the law dons who preferred anonymity said that they had not received the report.

“But if that is the recommendation, then this would be the worst decision for council to make. We have only given a legal opinion. And by the way, most of us here at law school are not here for the job. No! We are here simply because we feel we want to make a contribution to jurisprudence,” a professor of law said.

“Don’t be surprised, in case such a decision is made, even if they close the school for one month, I am sure 50% of us would not return. We can’t work in a lawless institution.”

A University Council meeting took place yesterday evening to discuss the impasse and hasn’t yet written a report as two principals, Prof Mbazira of Law School, and Prof Bernard Bashaasha, the principal of college of agriculture and environment science have been summoned to council to explain why they are not teaching.

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