KAMPALA- President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the immediate closure of Makerere University citing concerns over the safety of persons and property.
“I Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda has this 1st day of November 2016, pursuant to the powers vested in me by the Constitution and Section 26(2) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 as amended, decided to close Makerere University with immediate effect,” reads a statement he issued on Tuesday.
Mr Museveni’s directive followed hours of turbulence at Uganda’s oldest university. On Tuesday, the students engaged police in
Makerere University students are striking following Monday’s general assembly of teaching staff which voted to continue with their sit-down strike until they are paid all the incentive arrears.
The students’ strike started at Lumumba Hall on Tuesday amid heavy police and military deployment inside the university.
The students want lecturers to resume teaching as they demand their incentive payments. The University Council, the highest decision making body at the institution is meeting to decide the next move.
The Monday general assembly which voted to continue with the strike was attended by the Council Chairperson Dr Charles Wana Etyem, the Vice Chancellor Prof Ddumba Ssentamu and Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration, Prof Bernabas Nawangwe.
“I want to appeal to you directly that in the interest of Makerere University…, unless the university is running, we are not going to solve these problems,” Dr Etyem said.
He had promised the lecturers that the university would pay their incentives for one month by end of November. However, the promise was dismissed by the academic staff.
The lecturers are demanding payment of incentives for the last 8 months excluding the month of October.
At the end of June, the arrears had accumulated arrears to Shs27 billion.
What are the incentives
The incentives were introduced during the 2013/2014 academic year after teaching staff went on strike demanding 100 per cent salary increment. They were meant to consolidate allowances that lecturers were earning from teaching evening programme students and eradicate indiscriminate distribution of the allowances among lecturers.
In September, the lecturers stopped teaching evening programme classes after management’s decision to cut their incentives by 75 per cent. The University Council bowed to lecturers’ pressure and rescinded the decision to reduce the incentives on September 14.
According to a statement presented to the lecturers by management, the cumulative budget versus the actual revenue deficit for the past three financial years stands at Sh72 billion.
This, according to management has resulted into inability to meet financial obligations, service and operation interruption, poor service delivery and inability to pay June salaries at the end of 2015-2016 financial year.
All lecturers who reacted to submissions from management said they are frustrated by endless failure by their bosses to honour their promises.
The academic staff members voted to maintain resolutions of the Monday general assembly to maintain their strike until they are paid.
“We must compel management to pay our incentives. We must get what belongs to us. There is money being hidden somewhere,” Prof Jacob Agea, a lecturer at the College of Health Sciences said.
He said the university management (Council members and management) always manage to soothe them with promises.
“Their salaries are being paid, their allowances are being paid…let them plead but we must insist on being paid. We need our incentives,” Dr Edward Mwavu, a lecturer at the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences said.
The lecturers were also informed that at the moment, the university has Sh4.6 billion on all its accounts which has been allocated to cater for October salaries.
A senior University Council member, who requested for anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the Council told this reporter that the university would be closed today if lecturers refuse to end the strike.
He said the university would not pay the incentives and the government will not accept to be dragged into the issue.
Prof Ddumba said management is waiting for a formal communication from the lecturers' association leadership before deciding its next decision.
“I have heard that they are going to continue with the strike and that is unfortunate,” Prof Ddumba said.
reas. Police fired teargas and live bullets to disperse rowdy students who fought back with stones.
The students went on strike demanding that lecturers who had earlier gone on strike demanding for nine months accrued arrears to resume teaching as they pursued their demands.
Shortly after Mr Museveni ordered the closure, the university Guild President, Mr Roy Ssembogga, issued a statement calling on the students to wait for a response from the his office.
“I am currently in an emergency meeting with the guild prime minister. I kindly request you to await the guild’s position on this,” he said in a brief statement issued late on Tuesday.
It was, however, not possible to establish what the guild’s decision was.
Besigye weighs in
Opposition leader Col Dr Kizza Besigye weighed in on the president’s directive, saying it was ridiculous for government to claim that it does not have the resources to pay the striking lecturers.
“Makarere University students and staff should defy this ridiculous order. There’s money to bail out a private bank but not pay staff dues!” the former presidential candidate said in a tweet.