Makerere University lecturers have resolved to end the month-long sit down strike and resume lectures.
The staff made the resolution during a joint general assembly of administrative, academic and support staff associations on Friday. The strike that had paralyzed university operations was called off after assurances by the university council, a supreme governing body that it will handle the staff-management rift issues.
The staff went on strike on January 18 protesting the decision by the Makerere vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe to suspend three staff association leaders; Bennet Magara, the chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association (Masa), his secretary general Joseph Kalema and Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the chairperson Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa).
They were separately suspended from university service on grounds of indiscipline and incitement of staff with a view of making the institution ungovernable. The vice chairperson of the university council Daniel Fred Kidega said the issues of staff will be handled expeditiously by the university appointments board starting Monday next week.
"An institution that incubates knowledge and gives birth innovation, there is need for space for that to apply. I’m talking about the academic freedom, freedom to associate and organization in the university. Council is conscious of the fact that this is a learning institution with professors and academic staff must have their space to think and incubate knowledge. Am talking innovations - give this country solutions to the problems that the country faces. Our appeal to you, and we beg you that please give us a chance to make certain things happen. Give us a chance to do what is expected of us. We shall continue management of the management of the associations to ensure that everything runs smoothly in this country." Kidega said.
Prof Ben Kiromba Twinomugisha from the School of Law said the recommendation by the vice chancellor to close the Law School had prompted him to resign from Makerere University. Nawangwe had recommended for the indefinite closure of the Law School, saying its lecturers had refused to teach and were inciting others against the university management.
According to Twinomugisha, the university council's gesture to handle the staff grievances including quashing the processes of the vice chancellor has given a ray of hope to the staff.
"I must thank council for taking a deliberate, courageous decision to nullify some of the processes the VC had taken and abandon him to abandon that satanic move to recommending the closure of the School of Law of which I have given all my life. To me this council seems to have come with good will."
"Equally, council make it clear that as the representatives appear before the appointment boards on Monday, the suspension by virtual of the law has expired. They are appearing before the board as unsuspended members, full of the innocence like anything can be in terms of innocence. We expect no other thing as these resume their responsibilities as association leaders." said Twinomugisha.
Dr Kamunyu welcomed the resolutions and said that he was ready to cooperate with the new committee established by the Council.
"I’m proud of staff because for the first time they have reinstated confidence in themselves. They have demonstrated that we don’t want to live in illegalities. We don’t want to work in illegalities. We don’t want for people to be cracked down. We don’t want a situation where honest opinions are shunned, honest opinions are very important for the progress of our country. And these opinions are should be taken seriously. I want to thank students for remaining calm and I want them to remain calm in future. Let us battle the minds, let opinions and decisions be found, let debates be allowed." Kamunyu said.
Bennet Magara, the suspended Masa chairperson said that he hopes that the university council will keep its word and stick to the law and provide proper guidance to the institution.
"I agree and respect the decisions of the joint assembly of Muasa, Masa and the decision that was made by the university council to take over the matter of my suspension is a welcome development. Because previously the suspender had put a committee to investigate and was expecting a report which I believe was unfair and this one had started developing as a culture in the institution where management takes the law in its hands without following procedures. We’re believing and hoping that council with the promises of cooperation, they will keep their word and I will be waiting for an opportunity on the issues of the way forward because the suspension under the law is already lapsed."
Dr Muhammad Kiggundu Musoke, the university spokesperson says that the resolution is the beginning of dialogue and tolerance in the university.
"We’re very grateful as management to the staff because we have been appealing as a family. We’re very appreciative of the staff for lifting the tools and suspending the strike because now we’re working as a team and there is what we call building trust. So in this regard am very appreciative and thank everyone - the members of staff and we thank management, we thank our students who have been very calm and demonstrated this. And we thank the public for supporting us in this very venture because it is a learning process as we begin a new picture. Now that normalcy is 100% we thank everybody - whoever has supported use the home people of Makerere - members of staff, the associations, students and management to agree to work as a team." Kiggundu said.