Museveni’s directives on Makerere will wait, Minister tells MPs
A week after President Yoweri Museveni directed for the immediate withdrawal of the military deployed at Makerere University, Adolf Mwesige, the Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs Adolf Mwesige has told a parliamentary committee that the withdrawal will not be sudden but handled gradually.
On Wednesday, Mwesige appeared before Parliament’s education committee that in investigating the current impasse at the university, to answer queries related to acts of brutality that the army meted out to the students.
He was in the company of the State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mario Obiga Kania, deputy Chief of Defense Forces, Lt Gen. Wilson Mbadi among others.
Mwesige told MPs that the army was not deployed to respond to the students’ protest but had been there since 2018 when they created a tactical response base inside the university to respond to criminality in areas neighbouring Makerere.
He explained that at the time, Police had recorded a spike in cases of murder and robberies and thus asked the army to beef it up. When the current crisis at Makerere broke out, Mwesige said, it found the army there, and only 38 personnel were used to respond to the police call for reinforcement.
He however admitted that some of the soldiers had misbehaved which led to the arrest of their commander, Capt Ronald Lubeere who is in detention at the Makindye based Military Police barracks.
He said that although they are withdrawing from Makerere University, the withdrawal will be gradual since they do not want to leave Makerere unattended too.
Responding to questions on suspected security operatives and other university officials who allegedly move with guns in and outside lecture rooms at the university, Mwesige told the committee that it is not a crime for spies to be at the Makerere as long as they are doing their job.
He also told the committee that it is not permitted for someone to enter with guns inside the classrooms and if there is such a case they will follow it up.
NAWANGWE’S TOUGH TIME
Earlier, the university’s Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe had a tough time before the committee with several MPs accusing him of maladministration.
Nawangwe who appeared with members of the University Council plus the university’s management committee looked on quietly as MPs took turns in accusing him of using the social media to intimidate students and staff from exercising their freedom of expression.
Mityana Municipality’s Francis Zaake for instance alleged that Nawangwe had personally sent intimidating messages to parents of some of the students in addition to using his personal assistant and female companions to intimidate the students.
Reminiscing his time as guild president at Makerere, Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa told Nawangwe to pick a leaf from the management style of the vice chancellor at the time.
“Ours was more complicated but the Vice Chancellor never expelled us. There was a time we literally blocked President Museveni himself; in 2000, President Museveni had come to campaign and we planned on failing him from addressing us at the Freedom square but the vice chancellor didn’t take any action against us,” Basalirwa said.
Basalirwa went on to counsel Nawangwe telling him, “When it comes to handling students be parental, expulsions and suspensions can cause tension.”
But some MPs told Nawangwe to resign because he seems not to be in charge of the institution.
Nawangwe however defended himself telling the MPs that he had established a window for dialogue with the students leaders, adding that they were working towards returning the situation to normalcy.