By Andrew Irumba
Students of Makerere University have announced new strikes this week unless the University Management officially writes to the Guild Council stating their position in regard to rescinding the 15% tuition increment.
The students, who have since fired the Guild Prime Minister and Speaker for betraying them by allegedly conniving with some members of University Management to call off the strike, without the consent of the Guild, vowed not to end the strike unless Management hears them out.
On top of officially writing to the Guild about rescinding the 15 % tuition, the students also want the University Management headed by Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe to cancel all suspension and warning letters issued out to students who participated in protests against the tuition increment , plus the release of all students still in police and military cells.
The University vice Guild President, Judith Nalukwago, told journalists at Centigrade Restaurant in Nakulabye this morning that they cannot call off the students’ strike until Management addresses their concerns.
Nalukwago, who is the acting Guild President, fired the Guild Prime Minister, Emmanuel Obbo and Speaker Ezra Byakutangaaza early this week for issuing a communication indicating that they had called off the strike.
Nalukwago said that “We are planning to hold a general assembly at the Freedom Square in Makerere on Monday to forge a way forward but we assure you that the strikes have not ended until they agree to our demands. Tuition increment Must fall!”
On October 31st, 2019, Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Nawangwe issued a statement asking students to return to class, saying the situation was calm despite some hiccups. He said the semester would continue as planned and reminded students of examinations starting November 18, 2019.
However, Nalukwago said that “We will not be forced to return to class,” adding that “We will continue demanding for a hearing.”
The students want the University to recall the 15% tuition increment, reinstate all suspended students and withdraw security from Freedom square, a converging area for students.
Nalukwago also told journalists that Professor Eria Hisali, the Principal of College of Business and Management Science together with Gordon Murangira, the Personal Secretary to Nawangwe, should be suspended and investigated for their role in brutalizing students.
She accused the two especially Hisali, of allegedly sanctioning the military and police to unleash terror onto students. Apart from brutally arresting students, the military police officers entered Mitchel and Lumumba halls on October 24th, 2019, beat up students and destroyed property.
The operation is said to have commanded by Captain Ronald Lubaare, who was arrested on Friday for his role in the acts of violence which attracted criticisms against government from the European Union, United States of America, Human Rights Commission, International Community, United Nations , among others . Nalukwago said that while the arrest of Lubeera is a good step, they real master-minders of the brutality have not been dealt with.
As they continue with the strike, students also want to sue the University for violating their freedom of Assembly and Association, freedom of speech, failure to protect its own students against security forces and destruction of property.
Joshua Katabazi, a law student, said the University needs to answer for their actions and compensate the affected students.
Trouble at MUK broke out on October 22nd, 2019 when students staged protests against the 15% tuition increment, only to be brutally repulsed by the police and military deployed at the University to disperse them.
However, matters worsened when the military stormed students’ hostels and halls at night, and unleashed terror on the hapless students. Footage of military brutalising disabled students, girls and boys rolling on the ground naked while being flogged flooded the media.
The military and police also unleashed violence unto students who were reporting the happenings at the University. The strike, which later spilled into another week, has since paralyzed business at and around Makerere University. Dozens of students were arrested and freed while others are nursing injuries, with some like Siperia Mollie Saasirabo and Penina Mukama still hospitalised.
However, on Thursday 31st, 2019, parliament tasked the Parliamentary Committee on Education to investigate the impasse at Makerere and bring all the perpetrators of the violence to book and students said they are willing to avail the Committee with all the evidence they need.