Makerere University students are piling pressure on the university council to resolve the impasse relating to guild elections. Early this month, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Umar Kakumba issued a directive staying all electoral activities pending a review of the contested electoral reforms.
The directive triggered anxiety among students and aspiring leaders. Judith Nalukwago, a fourth year bachelor of Dental Surgery Student and an aspiring Guild Presidential candidate, says the decision has kept students in total darkness adding that they are now hoping against hope to have the elections conducted.
“Personally, I believe the student’s guild is not ending today. It’s not a must that the students’ guild electoral regulations have to be made today, here and now. It would still be in the interest of the Council to have the regulations when the student leadership is fully constituted,” said Nalukwago.
Nalukwago for instance argues that the suspension of the guild elections is likely to destabilize the academic programming, including the period for tests and course works.
Abbas Luyombo, a third-year law student and guild presidential hopeful, says the stalemate of the guild elections is likely to have a significant drop in the number of students who participate in the process of choosing their leaders.
He argues that any further delay is likely to make students to choose between books and politics, which he says will affect their right to participate in electing their leaders. “For management, they might think extension does not affect the academic activities but it is disadvantageous in a way that it affects the students who are meant to determine their leaders,” said Luyombo.
According to Luyombo, currently there is no substantive student representation on the Council since the guild parliament was dissolved in January this year. At the dissolution of the guild Parliament, Ezra Byakutangaza, the guild speaker automatically became the head of the care-taker government and as such a representative of the students on the governing body, the University Council.
Harris Justus Akampurira, one of the Guild Presidential Aspirant also contends that there is a leadership vacuum in student’s leadership, saying such reforms require a substantive guild representation to hold.
“There was in the first place no need whatsoever to extend the elections at Makerere University, except for the need to control the process itself because the laws that guide this process are clear,” Akampurira argues.
He adds that; “There is no reasonable excuse apart from the wanton desire to control the electoral process that the University and the Electoral Commission have.” Akampurira believes there are vested interests in the Makerere University students’ polls and that there is a measured move by management to ensure the elections don’t happen the way they have been happening.
Makerere University Council passed and approved Makerere University Guild election regulations during its December 6, 2018 sitting. They were then gazetted as ““Makerere University Students Guild Constitution Elections Regulations No.1 of 2018” on January 11, 2019.
Key among the provisions is the ban on guild rallies in halls of residence and restriction of guild campaigns to four rallies. They also bars students from acts of hooliganism and use of obscene language during the campaigns and require all aspiring guild presidential candidates to pay non-refundable fee of Shillings 200,000, and Shs.100, 000 for Guild Representative Council-GRC aspirants while those vying for offices under Students Common Room (SCR) for halls of residence will pay Shillings 50,000 down from Shillings 60,000.
Students rejected the regulations out rightly, saying they were not conclusively consulted, yet they were the key stakeholders for which, the regulations were being made. As a result, management deferred their implementation, and referred the matter to Council for reconsideration. Council did not review them the regulations as expected, which has led to the current stalemate.
Luyombo, who is the out-going students Guild Justice and Constitutional Affairs Guild Minister, says whereas the regulations might be made with intention of sanitizing student elections, there is a general feeling that students should have their input.
Moses Kidega, the Secretary National Affairs of the Uganda National Students Association (UNSA), says they have been following closely the tensions growing among students as a result of absence of elections.
In his February 19, 2020 letter addressed to Lorna Magara, the chairperson Makerere Universality Council, Kidega asked Council’s immediate intervention in guiding the students’ elections to avoid unnecessary agitations.
On February 13, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, the University Vice Chancellor communicated to students that council would meet and consider the students guild electoral reforms and provide proper guidance.