Heaping praises on Nawangwe, who has been at the helm of the university since 2017, Prof. Suruma noted that the vice-chancellor has done a remarkable job propelling the university to new heights thus deserving a second term to continue and complete his great works.
With his term of office elapsing
in August this year, Makerere University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barnabas
Nawangwe seems to be positioning himself for another term amidst queries about whether he is still eligible.
During day two of the weeklong 72nd graduation
ceremonies, the University Chancellor, Prof. Ezra Suruma couldn’t resist the
temptations of openly lobbying for Nawangwe’s return to Uganda’s oldest
institution of higher learning.
praises on Nawangwe, who has been at the helm of the university since 2017, Prof.
Suruma noted that the vice-chancellor has done a remarkable job propelling the university
to new heights thus deserving a second term to continue and complete his great
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Suruma’s remarks are not any different from those
made by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the Education and Sports Minister,
Janet Kataha Museveni while inauguration the graduation ceremonies on Monday
this week. The remarks at a time when the talk
is rife that Nawangwe is pushing for a second term in office.
The reports have already stirred debate and concerns among
the academic and administrative staff. Although Nawangwe has publicly
stated that his first term in office is ending soon, he has not yet pronounced
himself on whether he would like to get a second term. However,
a highly placed source in the university told our reporter on condition of
anonymity so as to speak freely on the matter that the battle for the second term has been on for the last two years.
you think Suruma is ignorant of how things have been moving at Makerere
university? He clearly knows that there has been an age limit for the VC job.
And he is aware that Nawangwe is above the limit. But he is publicly lobbying
for him,” the source noted. Another source noted that there has been a
power struggle at the university with those opposed to Nawangwe’s second term
in office being pushed out.
The source was referring to the recent
dismissal of Jefferson Kamugisha, the Director legal and Human Resource
Director, Dr. Davis Malowa. The Universities and Other Tertiary
Institutions Act 2001, the principal law that guides the administration of
universities and other higher institutions of learning in Uganda doesn’t cap
the age of the vice-chancellor.
According to Section 31 (2) of the Act, the vice-chancellor is selected by the chancellor at the suggestion of the university
council from among three candidates proposed by the Senate. Section 31(4) says
the vice-chancellor shall be appointed on terms and conditions determined by
the university council for five years and shall be eligible for re-appointment
for one more term.
For years, Makerere has had an age limit as one of
the requirements for people eyeing different positions in the university. Earlier
rules had kept out candidates above 60 years of age. However, the 2017 Search
Committee under the leadership of Dr. Irene Ovunji, the then Deputy Chairperson of Makerere University Council extended the upper age limit when they announced
that candidates interested in the post could be between 40 and 65 years.
“Associate Professors get contracts up to the
age of 70, why not the VC candidate? The Vice-Chancellor can be 65 years and
serve their term until they’re 70, then they retire.” Ovonji was quoted by the
press as she justified the committee's decision. The modification of the rule cleared
Prof. Ddumba-Sentamu, who had already clocked 64 to contest for
He, however, declined to seek another term given the acrimony
that characterized his five-year tenure as vice-chancellor. It should be recalled that there were voices
that said the change in the age requirement was altered to benefit Nawangwe who
was Ddumba’s deputy at the time. Nawangwe, who media reports indicated had the
support of not only the majority of the senate and council members who chose
the vice-chancellor but also the minister of education Janet Museveni and the
President, was 61 years of age at that time. Extending age limits for
management slots at Makerere is not new.
Apart from Prof. Nawangwe, Prof Mahmood Mamdani
was also a beneficiary of the extended age limit during his tenure as the
Director of Makerere Institute of Social research-MISR. Like Nawangwe, the decision to extend the age cap in Mamdani’s
case is said to have been done explicitly on the orders of President
Museveni. Mamdani had already past the 70-year age mark, which meant he was ineligible.
Several people at Makerere University are
convinced that if the powers that be want Nawangwe to remain at the helm of the institution, his term will be renewed regardless of the legal constraints
unless someone challenges the move in court. But if Mamdani’s experience
is anything to go by, the grumbling might end up at the gates of the university
that is celebrating 100 years this year.
Dr. Anthony Tibaingana, a lecturer in the College
of Business and Management Sciences notes that Makerere is not short of able
people to lead the institution and calls on the university leadership to desist
from ring-fencing positions for certain individuals.
“Age limit is justified by science and other
aspects. Actually, in my view, the age limit should be pulled back to 60
years. This great institution has a lot of people with potential. And we cannot
be putting our focus on one person. What will happen if he wants a third term?
Or more we adjust again?” Dr. Tibaingana wondered.
Dr. Tibaingana warned that failure to follow proper procedures could prompt some people to seek legal redress, which will be costly. To drive
his point home, he referred the matter to that crisis that Makerere has
experienced in the last five years resulting in the absence of a substantive
Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of finance, owing to inadequate compliance with
Another puzzling phenomenon is the possibility that
the council is granted Nawangwe another term without instituting a search
committee. Dr. Robert Kakuru, the Chairperson of Makerere University Academic
Staff Association-MUASA, says that he has also heard about this possibility. To him, if done, it will be tantamount to undermining the
university as an institution, which has had its values for years.
Prof. Nawangwe was coming into office, there was a criterion and he clearly
knows that the criteria have been there. He knows that after every five years.
Public universities have to search for a vice-chancellor. It is however
unfortunate for Makerere to steep to such trenches. I find it very challenging
that it is being talked about in an academic institution,” Kakuru told Uganda
A similar plot of skipping the search process is
currently at play at Kyambogo University where Prof. Elly Katunguka, whose
five-year contract is coming to an end. Prof. Elly Katunguka recently argued
that as the incumbent he doesn’t need to go through the normal process, adding
the university council will determine his fate.
For Kyambogo, Katunguka is riding on a court decision in the
case of former Vice-Chancellor Omolo Ndiege who dragged the university to court
and won for failure to reappoint him. Dr. Kakuru noted that under the current
circumstances, Makerere’s academic fabric has been scrapped as the players have
turned to political discourses, which he says predicts doom for the institution.
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noted that swaying from academic lines has
already cost the university its reputation with its ranking falling from second
in Africa in 2017 to the sixteenth position currently.
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Nawangwe's five-year tenure at the helm of
Makerere has been characterized by controversies including the suspension and
expulsion of several students and staff for flimsy reasons.