A section of lecturers at Makerere University have defended student’s protests against the proposed scrapping of the presidential age limit and condemned the brutal force used by police to suppress student’s voices.
Makerere University students joined the rest of the country on Thursday last week and Tuesday this week to protest the proposed amendment of article 102 (b) of the constitution, which caps the presidential age at 75 years.
Prof. Julius Kiiza, a Political Science lecturer at Makerere University has commended the students for their unwavering commitment to defend the constitution. He condemns the brutal police response to the student protest, saying it was uncalled for.
He says student activism at Makerere University, should be seen in positive light since it is the only public university with a large critical mass. Prof. Julius Kiiza says although students in other public universities are not as militant as those of Makerere, “they are insignificant because of student numbers, adding that many of them are still struggling to survive.”
Prof. Sabiti Makara, a senior lecturer in the department of Political Science and Public Administration, says that the student activism at Makerere University is historical. According to Prof. Makara, lecturers present academic material and analysis to students that helps them to appreciate issues in life.
Prof. Archangel Byaruhanga Rukooko, an expert in Epistemology, Ethics, and Applied Philosophy hails students for their activism and keeping Makerere at the top in order to ensure that their views in regard to issues that affect the country are heard.
Prof. Rukooko says what the students are doing to oppose the presidential age limit removal proposal by parliament is the right thing to do. “It’s a fundamental human right for someone to demonstrate on what they feel is not right. That is guaranteed. I think the students are doing the right thing. In fact if they didn’t do anything, then it would look like Makerere is totally dead,” Prof. Rukooko said.
Adding that; “Our resolve is weakened as academia. The government’s interest has always been to weaken all united groups. You can imagine if MUASA members cannot organize themselves that shows you how split we have been made.”
Dr. Deus Muhwezi Kamunyu, the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) Spokesperson, says deploying the military in Makerere University to suppress dissent is only short lived.
Dr. Kamunyu says there is need for government to engage students by addressing their concerns rather than considering them as thugs whenever they come up to protest.
Dr. Frederick Tanga Odoi, the Makerere University Convocation Chairperson, a body that unites all staff and former students, says there is need to reorient students to discuss issues as opposed to engaging in protests.
Dr. Tanga says that in their time as an undergraduate student in 1980s, their demonstrations were focused.
He opines that students’ demonstrations at Makerere University are no longer meaningful because students resort to looting food stuffs and blocking roads inside the university and its neighborhood. He says it is the anticipation of violence and destruction of property, which leads to deployment of the military and police.