By Julius Odeke-Onyango in Kampala
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni late Tuesday evening ordered the immediate indefinite closure of one of East Africa’s oldest universities over concerns that the safety of persons and property within Makerere University and its surrounding environs such as Wandegeya, a suburb that mostly plays a vital economic role in the area, were being threatened by student unrest.
In a statement he issued, a copy of which has been passed on to us, Mr Museveni said: “I Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda has this 1st day of November 2016, pursuant to the powers vested in me by the Constitution and Section 26(2) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 as amended, decided to close Makerere University with immediate effect until further notice, in order to guarantee safety of persons and property.” The president acted after students clashed with police all day Tuesday claiming they were not able to attend classes due to lack of lecturers who are themselves on strike seeking payments for months of unpaid wages.
Don Wanyama, Senior Presidential Press Secretary confirmed the directive saying, “The president’s directive to have Makerere University closed is due to security concerns over the safety of persons in and outside the university and their property.” The Ugandan leader who has ruled the East African country for three decades now, sent a directive following hours of turbulence at the main campus. Founded in 1922, Makerere University Kampala (MUK) as is now known, has churned out leaders that include; the former Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, Seychelles’ president Danny Faure, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Benjamin Mkapa the former president of Tanzania, among others.
Armed police arrived early Wednesday morning to oversee the president’s directive. Within minutes the heavy deployment of security personnel at the 94-year old academic institute that was once East and Central Africa’s finest university, had been completed and sealed off, allowing no one to leave or enter the premises. Earlier on Tuesday morning, students had engaged police in running battles around the campus and neighbouring areas of Wandegeya and other suburbs. Notorious for its rough and often deadly way of dealing with the public, the Uganda police fired teargas and live bullets to disperse rowdy students who fought back with stones. According to one of the country’s leading dailies, the Daily Monitor, more than 50 students were arrested by police over the strike. At least 21 of the arrested students were charged with staging an illegal assembly after they were picked up for throwing stones at vehicles near the university main gate and looting as well as plundering people’s merchandise.