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Now Nawangwe wants School of Law closed indefinitely

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe

Makerere University vice chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has recommended for the indefinite closure of the School of Law for failure to resume teaching.

The recommendation is contained in a 7-page report dated February 11 addressed to Lorna Magara, the chairperson of Makerere University Council. Nawangwe's recommendation follows the university council's directive to management during its 145th meeting held at Speke Resort Munyonyo on February 8.

The council had directed that the vice chancellor and management of the university to expeditiously handle matters pertaining teaching of students, research and community outreach.

It had also directed the university management to provide a status report clearly indicating the actions taken to resolve the impasse. According to a copy of the report, Prof Nawangwe observes that in spite of the on-going engagements, the standoff has remained predominant in the School of Law where the school leadership has "openly declared leadership of the acts of defiance."

Prof Nawangwe attaches a copy of the second legal opinion of the School of Law signed by the Principal Associate Prof Christopher Mbazira in which they stood their ground that the vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has no powers to suspend staff or appoint a committee to investigate employees. Nawangwe's suspension of the academic staff association leaders triggered off a staff strike now into a fourth week. 

Nawangwe contends that given the position taken by the School of Law to defy authority and incite the rest of the university to follow their bad example, it is recommended that the School of Law be closed indefinitely.

"The staff should be required to hand over university property and the students advised to return home and await further instructions," Nawangwe says in a management report to council.

"Armed with misleading advice by some staff of the School of Law, executives of staff associations want an unconditional lifting of the suspension of Dr Deus K Muhwezi as a condition for calling the general assembly to lift the purported strike," Nawangwe notes.

He further alleges that the students were being mobilized by the executives of staff associations to join them and put pressure on management to unconditionally reinstate Dr Deus K. Muhwezi. But insists that; “management will follow the laid down procedures and the students have shunned these calls."

According to Nawangwe, the institution and management, on the other hand, maintains, that such an action would set a very bad precedent of impunity.

"It would be possible in future for someone to do wrong but just because they can mobilise others, no disciplinary action would be taken. This would greatly undermine disciplinary powers of Management as well as set a wrong future precedence," Nawangwe argues.

He adds that unconditional lifting of a suspension is also not provided for in the human resources manual of the university and is thus illegal and unlawful. He also observes that the perpetrators of the stand-off want to create a an ungovernable situation at the University.

Further, Nawangwe says all colleges have since resumed full teaching including College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology (CEDAT), College of Health Sciences (CHS), College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources & Biosecurity (COVAB), College of Education and External Studies (CEES), College of Natural Sciences (CONAS), College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), College of Business and Management Sciences (COBAMS), College of Computing and Information Sciences (COCIS) with partial teaching in College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), with the exception of the School of Law where no teaching has been reported.

URN has however established that more than 200 staff of CAES have unanimously agreed to withdraw labour in support of the joint associations resolutions. Additionally, Prof Nawangwe's report that all colleges are teaching except CAES and Law School is being contested by Makerere Law Society (MLS) who say it is false.

"The record must be set straight. Makerere University has ten colleges. Of these, only two colleges (College of Health Sciences and the College of Engineering Art & Design) are presently having lectures and this fact is confirmed by the student leaders of the different college student leadership that have hereunder appended their confirmatory signatures," MLS said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.

They further add that; "The representation by the university administration, that lectures are on-going within the entire university save for School of Law is patently false and borders on being divisive. Furthermore, the claim that students are the ones voluntarily boycotting class is equally false."

But according to Nawangwe; "The continued defiance by the School of Law, meaning that the students will not be taught for a fourth week running is likely to lead to a deterioration of discipline among the students with unforeseen consequences."

Some of the law dons who preferred anonymity said that they had not received the report.

"But if that is the recommendation, then this would be the worst decision for council to make. We have only given a legal opinion. And by the way, most of us here at Law School are not here for the job. No! We are here simply because we feel we want to make a contribution to jurisprudence," a Professor of law said.

Before adding that; "Don't be surprised, in case such a decision is made, even if they close the school for one month, I am sure 50% of us would not return. We can't work in a lawless institution."

In a related development, two principals, Prof Christopher Mbazira of Law School and Prof Bernard Bashaasha, the Principal of CAES have been summoned to council to explain why they are not teaching.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd