Makerere Protest: Global Stage

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(Left to Right, Prince Wasajja Dickson and Rashid Kasaato, carrying a petitition to the Commonwealth Offices in London, being escorted by the Metropolitan Police’s Inspector Alison Smith).

The crisis at Uganda’s leading University, Makerere, closed by the government after a strike by lecturers took an interesting twist today when Ugandans in London tried to deliver a petition to Queen Elizabeth II.

The Ugandans, graduates of Makerere, one of Africa’s most prestigious Universities sent similar petitions to Commonwealth member states and the African Union, denouncing the closure, which they say, will irreparably harm students. The petition was delivered in the name of Makerere University Old Students (MUOS), which represents past graduates of the institution.

The 52 year-old University, the largest institution of higher education in East Africa has not experienced this kind of abrupt closure, even during Idi Amin’s dictatorship. “We are expressing our total condemnation in the strongest terms over the government’s systematic and deliberate violation of Ugandans’ right to higher education,� reads the petition, signed by Rashid Kasaato, Secretary of MUOS for the immediate reopening, and by its Chairman, Prince Dickson Wasajja.

A copy has been forwarded to the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament Edward Sekandi. “This has left the future of hardworking Ugandan parents and their bright children in an indeterminate state,� adds the petition.

Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled to travel to Uganda next year to open The Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. “Without mentioning all other government’s systematic human rights violations in Uganda, the recent closure of Makerere University is a result of government’s incompetence and poor planning,� states the petition.

The East African country has been under intense scrutiny, even as government there negotiates with rebels to end 20 years of civil war. “This is lack of goodwill and above all, the deliberate and continuous destruction policy of higher education are all unforgivable and crimes against humanity,� Kasaato says, in an interview with The Black Star News.

MUOS blames the failure to reach a pact over pay rates between Makerere professors and the government to “the government’s systematic education failures, arrogance and bullying of Makerere University teaching staff.� 

“Under government’s supervision, students have consistently been exploited by imposing on them exorbitant tuition fees,� adds Kasaato. “We have lived in the times of dictator but they haven’t taken this kind of steps. The government of Museveni has bullied the lecturers, and has established a number of them destitute—after forcefully throwing them out of the students’ residential halls.�

Added Prince Dickson Wasajja, “We have taken this avenue to petition to the Commonwealth and the African Union because all those institutions advocate for educating the citizens.�

Both Kasaato and Prince Dickson Wasajja say the unilateral closure of Makerere violates the Ugandan constitution which holds that education is a fundamental human right—moreover, education is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Human Rights Covenants, “which have force of international law.�
Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from London.

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