On October 6, President Museveni launched the Julius Nyerere Leadership Centre at Makerere University. The centre will focus on governance issues in Africa. Prof. Edward Kirumira, the principal of College of Humanities and Social Sciences, spoke to Josephine Namuloki about the centre.
What is unique about the Julius Nyerere Leadership Centre?
Let me start from the broader background that Uganda like any other country has the challenge of an increasingly youthful population. These young leaders of tomorrow are growing up in a context that addresses performance that is more academic.
Most of their mentorship and growth is starting from that position that you must get four aggregates, eight out of eight and so on, and not much attention is being given to leadership skills.
Secondly, leadership increasingly is being defined in terms of almost a job for people in politics rather than leading as provided in leadership. So, we are having this youthful population that is growing up in these two extremes; academic-oriented and politics. Then, we know that universities worldwide should be the engine for development in terms of human resources development.
Universities are being required to fill in the gap between a highly academic growth path and a highly politicised growth path and to be able to have spaces that can nurture the young people into leadership in societies and national leadership, and also to nurture them beyond self.
What some of the universities are doing is to come up with centres of excellence to provide opportunities on a particular theme or a national problem - maybe it is oil and gas, environment and others.
That centre allows you to bring research, policy, politics and human resource together and then you can develop a certain type of personnel that combine these various qualities and can, therefore, be leaders of a particular sector.
The Julius Nyerere Leadership Centre comes in with that context that particularly concerns nurturing leaders of tomorrow and this concept is premised on the Luganda thing of “Ekyoto” where elders would sit around the fire with the young people and pass on knowledge.
I thought the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi is for grooming leaders…
What we thought and discussed with His Excellency was that there are various fora where we are training young people. We have Kyankwanzi, for example, but when you look at Kyankwanzi, it’s been inadvertently politicised; so, people look at it as grooming leaders of NRM, not necessarily leaders of tomorrow or of Uganda.
With Julius Nyerere Leadership Centre, the choice is that Julius Nyerere represents a category of African leaders who were concerned about national, regional and continental integration.
He was a person who was concerned with leadership beyond self, national identity and when you look at Tanzania, the promotion of Kiswahili, so that we could have something that unites all other East African countries.
By using him as a role model or point of reference, we can have a centre that is based on the ideals he stood for. The ideals of social integration, equality, community and African identity, and through that build a new generation of leaders that are not looking at the political parties, personal interest and profits.
We hope the centre will provide a platform where we can bring African people who have been in leadership positions to share their experience, wisdom, and pass their legacy. For example, a centre running dialogue, annual presidential conferences, debates on national issues but with emphasis on bringing in the youth.
For example, inviting the former president of Ghana to come and spend a day or week running a series on governance on oil and gas. The centre intends to bridge a gap allowing citizens to bring up their issues, for example, in constitutionalism.
In a way, we want to see if we can create a forum where researchers and academicians bring evidence to the table but then the young people and the community ask questions. If we are talking about the regional tier system, for example, what is the evidence that exists and the researchers would provide evidence.
The politicians, youth and other sections in a way would bring the concerns. When you look at the presentation His Excellency made, he dealt with the principles that Julius Nyerere stood for. If we begin to speak around that, in a way, we think the centre will act as a forum that depoliticises debate on African development and it historicises African development.
It is historical in the way that you have an opportunity to look back and say, what is that we are doing wrong and what is that we did right? What is that we did not do enough? All those kinds of questions, when we discuss them within a purely political arena, tempers go up because it is either defending or kicking out.
So, what is your main target?
We think that centre can bring us all together and say first, what are the principles we should be aiming for rather than maybe say our main aim is to get this person out and on the other side.
We are looking at what do we need Uganda to be? Is it NRM, FDC? That is where we sometime get problems like now Mugisha Muntu has moved out of FDC, what does it mean? We are asking what it means for FDC but we are not asking what it means for Uganda.
On the NRM side, everybody is looking at His Excellency, the whole thing is all about how long is he going to stay? We are not saying what implication does it have for the nation. For example, if tomorrow he says I am going, are we prepared? Do we have people to take over? Do we have the Uganda we would want to see after that?
It is those kinds of debates that Nyerere spent his time discussing and that’s why he played host to many liberation movements. One of the things he said is that Tanzania would not get independence unless Uganda and Kenya got independence. He said it wouldn’t make sense for them to be independent when around them people are not independent.
So, what role has the president played in having this centre?
This is an initiative actually started by the president and I think for two reasons: that Julius Nyerere is more or less like his political father. He has grown under him and he has earned many respects and has very high regard.
Secondly, I think there is worry about transition; we have been captured in the politics of the moment rather than the politics of development, which would demand that we take stock of our history, identity, and the globalising influences.
Who is responsible for the centre?
It is to be co-sponsored by Makerere University and Uganda Management Institute (UMI). This was at the insistence of the president. So, it is a tripartite arrangement between the Presidency, UMI and Makerere University.
How much does each of the three partners contribute?
He requested that Makerere University provides accommodation for the centre and so Makerere University has allocated a house on Pool road just opposite Stanbic bank. Makerere has allocated that wooden house including that space between the senate building and college of computing and information sciences.
We can say the centre is now established as an autonomous legal concern with its own articles of association and a separate account. The only thing remaining is to set up a secretariat with an executive director.
We are starting in that wooden house, which actually dates back to the days of Julius Nyerere. There are wooden houses which have their historical background.
What is its administration like?
What we have now is the board of directors; two from Makerere University, two from UMI and the other two are from the presidency. There is the interim board that is supposed to sit and fill up the governance structure -- the board of trustees, the board of directors and the executive director and staff.
Initially, the presidency committed Shs 2.03 billion as start-up capital for the centre. It has already transferred Shs 75 million to the account of the centre. The centre will need to construct and the construction will cost us about Shs 4.5bn but in addition to that, the centre will be fundraising for activities.
Did the president indicate that money for the centre would be provided in the next financial year budget?
In the president’s letter to the vice chancellor, he said he would find the money. And if it is too much for the presidency, he will ask the finance ministry to find that money. He has made his commitment in writing; that for the Shs 2.03bn, he will find the money. But the Shs 4.5 billion is now what we are proposing because we couldn’t plan that before Makerere allocated space.
Who are the first beneficiaries?
At the launch, we invited all students’ leaders including guild presidents and leadership of all public and private universities. The catchment will be from universities, higher education institutions, but also in secondary schools; for example, after senior six, students have time before they join the universities. So, you could actually run a leadership programme for two months and they could be in residence.
Our thinking is that we take advantage of holidays to run some leadership summer schools. Universities and leadership centres abroad do that. I think the challenge here we have had is that when you look at Tanzania and to some extent in Kenya, they have national service. Now, in Uganda national service has always been politicised. In other countries, they have Peace Corps; they have summer schools and all those different things.
How much will a beneficiary be required to pay?
The intention is for the centre to fundraise so that the participants do not pay. Paying means that those who can afford are the ones you get, not necessarily the ones you would want. It will be free.
Will youth from other countries be allowed for that programme?
Leaders invited from different countries will have their students also benefit. We now have a doctoral programme we started in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. What we have done is to say 60% Ugandans and 40% Africans and we find that it improves the quality of the product you pass out because the Ugandans are studying with other African nationals.