We shall sue you! MAK youth leaders to university council for banning political parties at ivory tower
By Wod Omoro
Kampala – Youth leaders have threatened legal action against Makerere University for disqualifying some candidates seeking to run for the position of Guild President.
Some candidates in the race were reportedly disqualified on account of their affiliation to political parties.
The university last week suspended Margaret Nattabi, who was the official National Unity Platform (NUP) flag bearer, and independent candidate Suleiman Namwoza from the guild race on the allegation of holding an illegal electoral debate.
Under their umbrella body, the Inter Party Youth Platform (IYOP), youth leaders said political parties have university chapters that serve as nursery beds for leadership development.
Speaking to the Nile Post shortly after a news conference in Kampala on Friday, the chairperson of IYOP Abdul Wahab Kasozi asked the university to review the current Guild Statute which he said contains “draconian” provisions intended to undermine the enjoyment of the right to belong to a political party.
He said this is guaranteed by Article 29 of the Constitution of Uganda and Section 3 (2) of the Political Parties and Organisations Act.
“We ask the university to reconsider the decision to suspend students from the University on account of their affiliation to political parties so that they immediately return to pursuing their academic obligations,” he said, adding that failure to do that they will take legal action against the university.
On April 7th, the university issued a directive demanding that all candidates record a video of themselves denouncing their association with political parties they belong to or else be disqualified.
Kasozi said while they acknowledge the need to regulate student activities on campuses in Uganda, including guild electoral activities, there is need to do so in ways that do not undermine the rights of the students to freely participate in political spaces in their respective colleges and halls of residences.
“The decision by Makerere University Council to ban multiparty activities at the University premises is draconian, discriminatory and does not represent the very mission of Makerere University. As members of the Inter Party Youth Platform (IYOP),” he said.
Piloya Barbra Nyeko from NRM said some of the successful leaders we have today in Uganda, both at local and national level, have been actively engaged in university politics.
“Minster of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Norbert Mao (former Guild President of Makerere University) his work is simple because of the mentorship he got right from the time he was at the university. He had a right to participate in a political party he deemed fit for himself and no body stopped him from doing that,” she said.
She called upon the university to accord the affected candidates the fundamental right of fair hearing and review the process of electing leaders at the University.
Nelson Agaba, the national youth league coordinator at Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) said the new policies by the university are an indication that democracy in this country is nothing to boast about anymore. He called upon the university to rescind its decision.
In 2022, the university council banned all physical election activities including campaigns and voting but said they were to be held online.
The decision followed a scuffle between supporters of NUP and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) during which a student from Uganda Christian University died in a stabbing incident.
To stop such violent incidents from reoccurring, the university had decided to ban physical electoral activities from the university premises.
David Musiri from NUP said Makerere plays a critical role in shaping the institution of higher learning in Uganda, adding that some of those unfair policies will soon be adapted by some universities.
Recently, the chairperson of the university electoral commission, Levi Tshilumba, said the suspended candidates were disqualified for organising “illegal” political debate.
Tshilumba explained that their action contravened the university guild election statute which stipulates that student elections at the university are virtual, unless otherwise determined by the university council, and that pair was disqualified for going against the students’ regulations.