Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has indefinitely closed Makerere University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Africa, following weeks of protests by students and lecturers over outstanding salary arrears. Lecturers at the institution have been on strike for several months demanding that the government pay their incentive allowances in full. The unpaid 8-month arrears currently stand at $8.3 million, according to Quartz.
President Museveni wrote on his Twitter page on Tuesday:
I have this evening ordered for immediate closure of Makerere University until further notice to guarantee safety of persons and property.
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) November 1, 2016
The months-long teacher’s strike prompted students to stage demonstrations both inside and outside campus, calling upon the government to address the issues raised by their lecturers in order to end the strike.
The President’s directive has been met with serious disapproval from different quarters including the country’s main opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, who called it “ridiculous” and urged students and staff to continue demonstrating.
Critics are also questioning the President’s decision to close the school hours after the university’s council agreed to pay one month’s allowance in an attempt to get striking lecturers back to work.
Besigye also criticized Ugandan police for using excess force against students during protests, calling their actions “brutal politics.”
On October 14th, three lecturers and 15 students from Kabale University were arrested for allegedly organizing a protest that paralyzed learning at the institution, according to the Observer.
The protests erupted after students reportedly attempted to attack the academic registrar’s office and raid the office of the Vice Chancellor, Joy Kwesiga, saying she is not fit to hold the office.
Students also demanded to know when the university’s administration would pay striking lecturers who have also been demanding their 8-month salary arrears.
Some of the students wanted the university to refund the tuition money they paid for the semester since their lecturers are not ready to teach, the Observer reported.
The Harvard of Africa
Makerere University was established in 1922 and has produced some of the most influential personalities in Africa, including former Ugandan President Milton Obote and Tanzanian Presidents Julius Nyerere and Benjamin Mkapa. The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, and former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki are also Makerere alumni.
Often referred to as Africa’s Harvard, the university currently has three campuses across Uganda and offers 134 undergraduate programs and 135 Master’s degrees.