Makerere University has asked the High Court in Kampala to dismiss an application by two students challenging their suspension. The applicants are Kenneth Katushabe and Calvin Mwesigwa Mugamba. The two former Makerere University guild aspirants ran to the High Court following their suspension by Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe on June 27th, 2022 for allegedly staging an assembly without authorization as provided for under the regulations of the institution.
The applicants contend that they were guild presidential aspirants under the National Unity Platform-NUP, Makerere University Chapter for the botched elections that were scheduled to take place on July 27th, 2022. They explain that prior to the main election, the NUP Chapter organized a general assembly and invited interested aspirants for the party primaries at Freedom square. They however say that they found Freedom square under heavy police protection, which barred them from accessing it.
The applicants claim that as they were in the process of inquiring as to why they could not access the square, police fired teargas and live ammunition triggering chaos among students who had turned up for the general assembly. They reportedly later recieved suspension letters signed by the Vice Chancellor Professor Barnabas Nawangwe on June 27th, 2022 for allegedly staging an assembly without permission from the university.
The students contend that their suspension came at a time when the university electoral commission had issued a roadmap for the guild polls. They want the High court to declare their suspension illegal on grounds that it didnt follow due process, which requires that they are subjected to Disciplinary Committee first.
However, when the matter came up for hearing before Justice Boniface Wamala on Monday, Makerere University which was represented by its Legal Director, Hudson Musoke and lawyer Christine Anyango, said that they had just submitted and shared their response to the application with the applicant’s lawyers. They also indicated that they are considering settling the matter outside court.
Kiranda also argues that the prayers sought by the applicants have already been overtaken by events because all Guild elections, functions, structures, and activities were suspended by the University council until further notice resulting from the chaos that led to the death of Michael Bewatte Betungura, a student from Uganda Christian University.
He adds that the applicant’s case was referred to the Dean of students for onward transmission to the Students Disciplinary Committee and the first hearing was held on August 4th, 2022. “That it is lawful and standard practice that once a person is suspected to have been involved in acts that breach regulations of any institution, then the administrative head of that institution may suspend that individual and refer the matter to the appropriate organ for further management,” says Kiranda.
According to Kiranda, the action of the Vice Chancellor to suspend and refer his case to the Committee was lawful and rational in the circumstances of the matter. “That the mere fact that the applicants were guild aspirants then it was more incumbent on them to ensure that every political assembly they were to attend or been invited to was properly cleared and free from any form of violence or from disruptive activities.”
On August 4th, 2022, the Dean of students at Makerere University Winfred Kabumbuli permitted Mwesigwa and Katushabe to sit their examinations as they wait for a final decision from the Disciplinary Committee.