Kampala, Uganda | URN | Freedom Square, which was once a perfectly green field is now riddled with large patches of mud, coursed through by tire tracks, following the Friday 11th economics exhibition.
The Square remained littered with sheer amounts of disposables from the same event till this week when the university started cleaning it in preparation for yet another event, the Geopolitics Conference.
The damage, according to several students diminished its symbolic and historical significance while painting a bad image of the University management.
Ayot Lillian, a student who was in attendance of the aforementioned event, agreed that it was the primary cause of the square’s present state but claimed that rain as well, which fell heavily, contributed significantly. According to her, due to the constant movement of participants and all other concerned parties, the already damp grounds were curved into by shoe soles and heels to arrive at the appalling appearance.
Other students, such as Kajumba Specioza however attribute it to the dancers who performed at the exhibition which Kateregga Benjamin, a student of the exhibiting College, declares was intended to give this year’s edition more flair than its predecessors. Kateregga said that those in attendance enjoyed it thoroughly though, the results have inspired negative sentiments towards his college.
Another student at COBAMS who declined to reveal her identity stated that the place was filthy because “people litter” and “do not have the discipline of taking things to the bin.”
She added that some participant’s products were destructive to the grounds, citing an individual whose product was “heavy” since he was “making concrete” on the lawn. This particular act, however destructive, was justifiable since permission had been granted by the University for such activity as long as the exhibition’s purpose was its motivation.
In light of this, concerns and opinions have flared especially due to the fact that the same grounds are hosting this year’s Geopolitics Conference which started today, October 17 and ends tomorrow, October 18.
Ahimbisibwe Timothy, a student says this, “would be embarrassing to Makerere,” whose administration he accuses of double standards. He says the management claims to be fencing off the grounds for its protection whilst letting such activities that deface it to go on.
The University’s Public Relations Officer, Dr. Muhammad Kiggundu, expressed displeasure in the Square’s appearance but countered the accusations by stating, “institutional activities are acceptable…these exhibitions are educational” and this is why COBAMS was granted usage of the Square. It’s only failing, according to him, was in litter management which the university has since rectified.
Dr Kiggundu went on to say that, “the exhibition took place in the rainy season and the machines used in the exhibition were heavy, requiring lorries to carry them to the lawn….it is hard to predict the weather forecast when one has booked months in advance.” He added that events must go on despite the seasons and their effect, citing the example of graduations which can’t be banned or suspended because of rain”. He however suggested pursuit of measures to lessen impact on the grounds such as the use of lifters to ferry heavy equipment.
In what he hoped will soothe sentiments, he stated that the freedom square has looked like this in the past due to weather-related reasons but still heals owing to the same and thus is nothing to worry about.
The immensely impactful student’s exhibition was held by the College of Business and Management Sciences (COBAMS) aimed at exploring Students’ innovations and business ideas. It featured groups of ten members that were evaluated by professionals and rewarded thereafter.
This year’s winners were an agribusiness team. The Freedom square is one of Makerere University’s most iconic landmarks that define the institution’s 97-year history. Located in front of the Main Building and sandwiched between the Main Library and the School of Social Sciences, the Square defines Makerere’s life.
Graduation ceremonies as well as students’ demonstrations take place here. Political rallies for both the student politics and national leadership are held in Freedom Square.
In November 1938, when the then 16-year-old institution started construction of its current Main Building, The Square was the venue for the cutting of the first sod.
On 8th October 1970, it was in The Freedom Square that Presidents Milton Obote of Uganda, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia gathered to inaugurate Makerere as an autonomous university from the University of East Africa (UEA).