Makerere sets date for Guild polls

Makerere University students pictured voting for their guild president in the past. PHOTO/NOELINE NABUKENYA

What you need to know:

  • The outgoing Guild president, Ms Shamim Nambassa, however, insists that the Guild Representative Council (GRC) exclusively holds the mandate to change the constitution, not the university.

Makerere University Council has made a u-turn and cleared students to conduct their Guild elections which were suspended last month after a student from Uganda Christian University (UCU) died during electioneering.

The university has, however, set a constitutional amendment of the students’ Guild manual as a major condition before commencement of the electoral process, something that has been protested by the students.

According to a press statement, Ms Lorna Magara, the chairperson of the University Council, says the Guild elections will commence on October 6 after the review of the constitution has been completed.

The released roadmap for Guild elections indicates that election of the students’ constitutional review commission will be instituted on August 27. The commencement of the constitution review process will then start on September 5 before running its course on October 5.

These will be followed by the commencement of the actual electoral process of the 88th students’ leadership.
“The University Council is concerned that some members of the students community and former students continue to distort the good intentions and actions of the Council and management,” Ms Magara noted in a statement, adding, “I appeal to students to support the ongoing efforts to strengthen the Guild to serve all students better.”

Makerere University Council on July 15 suspended the 88th Guild elections. This followed the death of a UCU student, Betungura Bewatte, who was fatally stabbed while on the campaign trail. This forced the university to suspend the elections and established a select committee to review the operations of the students’ Guild.
The university students have since been demanding a reinstatement of the Guild Elections, arguing that they cannot go about business without a leader to represent their interests.

The committee report highlights several gaps in the Students’ Guild, citing a weak regulatory framework for students’ leadership and high level of external influence as the major cause of violence.
According to the report Saturday Monitor has seen, external influence, most especially from political parties, has promoted national and external divisions among students.

The committee also cites monetisation of the students’ leadership, saying this has increased stakes in elections and the propensity of violent behaviours.

The emergence of unregulated brigades and cabals within the students’ body such as leo ni leo, sisi wenyewe, new kids on the block, air force one, among others, which are reportedly fuelled by non-students, compound matters.

The committee also reports that there were claims that the electoral process had been compromised, with allegations of pre-ticked ballot papers, adulterated nominal rolls and forged identity cards to favour particular candidates.

It is against the above background that the University Council has called for the enactment of the Makerere University Students’ Guild statute, which was approved this month.

The Council calls for the review of Guild constitution, the development of guidelines to streamline accountability in administering Guild finances and an investment in robust students’ leadership development programmes at the institution.

The outgoing Guild president, Ms Shamim Nambassa, however, insists that the Guild Representative Council (GRC) exclusively holds the mandate to change the constitution, not the university.

“They wrote to us saying that they have done research and that they are supposed to first set up the committee to amend our constitution before the election. We are sceptical about this because we do not know their intentions,”Ms Nambassa said, adding, “How did the constitution cause violence? The university should just leave the students to elect the GRC who should change the constitution and not them.”