Uganda’s Makerere University, established in 1922, is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Africa and has to its name a good number of notable alumni that include celebrities, politicians, business people, and athletes.
Some of the prominent alumni from Makerere university include politician and teacher Julius Nyerere; Novelist, Author and Essayist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o; Politician and Physician Kizza Besigye and even the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila.
This touch of prominence has failed to exempt Makerere University from going under like many other institutions in Uganda. Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni announced its closure following weeks of student protests and a months-long strike by lecturers who say the government has failed to pay their allowances since February.
The President sent out a directive on Tuesday evening saying that the university was to be closed “with immediate effect, until further notice, in order to guarantee safety of persons and property.”
President Museveni tweeted the gist of the directive;
“I have this evening ordered for immediate closure of Makerere University until further notice to guarantee safety of persons and property.”
The university had been swallowed up by protests which started up again in late October when the university’s lecturers demanded that the government pay their incentive arrears in full. According to the Daily Monitor newspaper, the incentives had been introduced in the 2013/14 academic years to answer demands by teachers that they wanted a 100% salary increment.
Currently, the total outstanding payment that the government owes is over 30 billion Ugandan shillings or $8.3 million. Students joined the protest to complain about the lack of lecturers during the academic year. They dressed up in their red undergraduate gowns and protested inside and outside the university campus.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye has criticized the President’s move in closing down the university. His criticism was based on the fact that despite the financial straits when it comes to the University, money for running the government does not seem to be lacking, as President Museveni spent $231 million on his campaign to secure a fifth term early this year, a figure which is much higher than the demands by the lecturers.