KAMPALA – Confusion erupted out at Makerere University on Friday as alumni and staff converged to elect new leaders of their umbrella body – the Convocation.
Chaos resulted from a standoff between the current leadership, which was in charge of the election exercise and some of the candidates.
Ostensibly, chaos followed the late delivery of election materials, which the contestants blamed onto the Returning Officer’s incompetence; – which had led to irregularities in the convocation lists on which some of the voters’ and contestants’ names were missing.
Throughout the day, the Annual General Meeting failed to agree on anything – starting with the agenda of the day.
Some of the candidates, with support from their fans highlighted numerous hitches that would not enable the election to go on smoothly.
Former Ntungamo Municipality MP, Gerald Karuhanga – tasked the current chairman Dr Tanga Odoi and the returning officer Prof Mukadasi Buyinza to postpone the exercise, so as to rectify the anomalies that had been identified. By virtue of his position as Academic Registrar, Buyinza is the Secretary to Convocation and the returning officer.
But the pleas fell on deaf ears as both Odoi and Buyinza insisted that voting had to take place – and that those who were not interested should simply find their way out. The arrogance contained in the election organisers, prompted Karuhanga’s supporters to react in a similar version – shouting, leading to the interruption the exercise for about 30 minutes.
As a way of countering the situation, organisers invited the deployed security personnel – including the police and military, which almost outnumbered the delegates. Police stormed the Auditorium of the Prof Yusuf Kironde Lule Building where the meeting was taking place – violently dragged out everybody who was yelling.
Gerald Twishimye – the commandant of Kampala Metropolitan Police, North said the intervention was inevitable – owing to the fact that some individuals had chosen to disrupt the meeting. Twishimye noted his duty was to ensure that voting took place as scheduled.
After the restoration of order, Buyinza invited delegates to propose candidates for the positions of Chairman, where nine contenders including; SP Jackson Mucunguzi, Gerald Karuhanga, Charles Odongotho, George Mugabi Turyamureeba, Tom Otim, Daniel Bateeze, Henry Suuna, Anthony Tibayingana, Ezra Byakutangaza, and Abdul Byakatonda were nominated.
However, after the nomination seven out of the nine candidates stepped down accusing Odoi of messing up the exercise, with only Otim and Turyamureeba remained in the race.
Mucunguzi, said he was saddened to see the brutality that was meted out to those who were opposed to proceedings of the election. He added that in good conscience, he wouldn’t remain in the race.
Karuhanga accused Prof Buyinza of abdicating his responsibilities.
For his part, journalist Odongotho said Dr Odoi was a dictator who had bungled up the whole exercise.
Although he remained in the race, Otim who is a deputy academic registrar decried the incompetence that was exhibited in the organising of the election. He said even he works in the office of the Academic Registrar; his name was not on the voter’s list.
Turyamureeba, one of the two candidates who had remained in the race, emerged the winner. He insinuated that police’s intervention to drive out those who were disrupting the exercise had played out to his advantage.
Critics said that Turyamureeba was Odoi’s alleged choice for the post. In fact, Odoi’s son Collins Tanga was on the same team as Turyamureeba, seeking to be the association’s publicity secretary.
In the history of the Convocation, this year’s election has been the most contested and most vibrant. The new leaders are expected to start their four-year term of office in April 2023.
Ordinarily, the chairman of the convocation is a member of the University Council; the highest decision-making organ of the academia. A new council was sworn in last week with Lorna Magara and Dan Kidega elected chairperson and vice chairman, respectively.