KAMPALA – Makerere University Convocation chairperson, Dr Tanga Odoi has defended the security invasion of the group’s chaotic Annual General Meeting held on December 30, 2022.
The institution’s Convocation is the statutory body that brings together staff and alumni. The body, established by the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act was due to elect its leadership last week when its members failed to agree with the returning officer over the process.
A section, which former Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga led, demanded the returning officer Prof Mukadasi Buyinza to postpone the exercise in order to correct the anomalies that they had highlighted by both contestants and members of the convocation.
The anomalies included the voters’ registers, which reportedly had missing names of the people who were eligible to vote.
Eligible voters were Makerere University alumni who had paid their annual subscription fee of Ugx10, 000. But many of the people who turned up to participate in the process questioned the verification system of voters, suspecting foul play saying the returning officer delayed publishing the lists of voters and left out many people who had come to vote.
Besides the register, there was late delivery of voting materials, which delayed the exercise that had initially been planned to start at 9:00am. On the polling day, the materials arrived, amidst heavy deployment at the Prof Yusuf Kironde Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium prompting contestants to demand for a postponement.
But Tanga Odoi, whose term of office ends in April, insisted on holding the election before chaos erupted.
Military personnel together with Police under the command of Gerald Twishimwe stormed the Auditorium – unleashing terror – through clobbering anyone with dissenting voices and in the process dispersed the meeting.
In the process, at least four people were arrested and seven out of the nine candidates stepped down accusing Odoi of messing up the exercise.
Those who pulled out of the race included Jackson Mucunguzi, Gerald Karuhanga, Charles Odongotho, Anthony Tibayingana, Ezra Byakutangaza, Daniel Bateeze, Henry Suuna and Abdul Byakatonda.
However, Tanga Odoi told journalists at the Convocation offices in Makerere University on Tuesday that some of the members, whom he referred to as hooligans, behaved in a violent manner, which prompted the Police to come in and restore peace. He accused the hooligans of turning the convocation into a political election in contravention of the set up rules.
Tanga further contended that while the electoral process generated a lot of criticism, they followed the Convocation Constitution after some of the people were dragged out and that the assembly continued and had a peaceful election in which George Turyamureeba won the race after defeating Tom Otim.
In the history of the Convocation, this year’s election was the most contested and most vibrant. The new leaders are expected to start their four-year term of office in April 2023.
Karuhanga, one of the candidates who withdrew from the election said that Tanga Odoi was the cause of the chaos at the assembly because he grabbed the powers of the returning officer.
“…the Returning Officer of the convocation is the Academic Registrar but Tanga in his weird approach as always, decided to hijack the whole process, and he is exactly the source of that chaos at this so-called election, and the unfortunate event,” said Karuhanga, who also faulted the organisers of the fraudulent exercise for refusing to include thousands of eligible voters on the final register.
He accused Tanga of doing all possible to ensure the success of his son – Collins Tanga who was contesting for the position of Publicity Secretary.
But Tanga defended himself – saying that he could not stop his son from competing in an election. He however distanced himself from accusations of favouring his son’s camp in the elections.
Karuhanga said candidates who withdrew from the election were still planning their next course of action.
“We are considering engaging a number of authorities, one of them is the University administration, and courts of law, so we are yet to finalise our next course of action,” he said.
Additional reporting by URN