More than 100 students have been arrested during an ongoing strike at Makerere University. The students are protesting against a 15 per cent annual tuition increment, which is implemented as part of a policy which was passed by the University Council in June 2018.
The university campus, in the outskirts of Kampala, has been a hive of activity since last evening, as students engaged security agencies in running battles. Police used teargas and live bullets to pursue the rowdy students, who are calling for the cancellation of the fees increment policy. Security operatives reportedly stormed student rooms last night and arrested those suspected of inciting their colleagues to stage the strike.
Today's morning classes were disrupted by the strike as students chanting 'fees must fall' combed the lecture theatres across the university, forcing their colleagues to join the strike. Several heavily armed and manned police patrol cars have been ferrying arrested students from the university premises to the nearby Wandegeya police station. Among the arrested is the People Power leaning guild president, Julius Kateregga and Ezra Byakutangaza, the university's guild speaker, among several other student leaders.
Both Kateregga and Byakutangaza were arrested while leading a procession of students from Kikoni, a west of Makerere, in protest of the arrest of their other colleagues. Kateregga says that the students have given the university management their stand regarding the revocation of the 15 per cent tuition increment.
"All the guild institutions have been dropped. The head of the guild cabinet has been arrested, I the speaker of the house has been arrested. Over 100 students have been arrested. That is not how we deal with the law. Police must begin talks because a policy is not complete until it is accepted. For people to come and enforce a policy is not possible." said Byakutangaza.
Byakutangaza says they cannot accept the university management to enforce a tuition policy on the students’ fraternity before they are fully in agreement with them. He adds that the students were ambushed by the policy, which was passed without 'meaningful' consultation.
The increment which took effect with the 2018/19 academic year for new students on all undergraduate programs, means that the university will be increasing tuition by 15 per cent per course every academic year.
"We cannot allow the university to deteriorate to this level. Yes, we were sold by our leaders before, but as leaders now, we’re standing up and saying students should be listened to and we’re not confronting anyone. And it is ok if everyone in the university is suspended but until the girl [Siperia Mollie Saasiraabo] who was suspended unlawfully is reinstated. It is her constitutional right to express herself. Am told that over 100 students have been arrested and are in different cells but I encourage students not to give up the fight." said Kateregga.
Siperia Mollie Saasiraabo, a guild representative councillor told URN that while at Wandegeya police last evening, they were handed letters of suspension from the university for allegedly inciting violence.
The suspension letters were reportedly delivered to the police station by Prof Eria Hisali, the principal college of Business and Management Sciences and Gordon Murangira, the personal assistant to the vice-chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe.
About the same time last year, Makerere University suspended nine students for allegedly threatening to disrupt activities at the university over tuition increment. They were accused of circulating messages calling for defiance against the university management.
Several others received warning letters from the university management. The students were protesting the cumulative 15 per cent tuition increment, a policy passed by university council in June 2018. The policy came into force after a section of Makerere University student leaders recommended a for a 15 per cent tuition fees increment across all courses offered at the institution.