The legal minds at Makerere University have advised the Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe to rescind the suspension of the head of the university staff association (MUASA), Dr Deus Kamunyu, as well as other staff and union members who were kicked out by the VC.
Lecturers from the Department of Public and Comparative Law at the University’s School of Law, warned Prof Nawangwe that the suspensions were not only in breach of some of the laws governing the institution, but also other national laws and parts of the 1995 constitution.
MUASA Chairman Kamunyu was suspended by the VC on allegations of incitement of other staff members, insubordination, and use of abusive language, among others.
Earlier in December last year, Nawangwe indefinitely suspended the Chairperson of MASA (Makerere Administrative Staff Association), Mr. Bennet Magara and the association Secretary, Mr. Joseph Katona, for writing a complaint to the University Secretary, stating that University management should not meddle in the affairs of staff associations.
The duo was also accused of “leading a mob to disrupt a session of the University Council.”
But according to the law professors from the School of Law, the VC has no right to terminate staff members who are exercising their rights as members of their own workers’ unions.
Some of the law professors who signed on the January 25th letter to the VC, include Prof Joe Oloka Onyango, Prof. Sylvia Tamale, Prof John Jean Barya, Counsel Fredrick Mpanga, Dr. Rose Nakayi among others.
In a letter , the law dons noted, “The leaders were suspended as employees of the university yet the allegations made against them relate to their work as leaders of employee associations.”
“It appears that the University is not accusing them of failure to perform their duties as employees, gross misconduct as employees or incompetence as employees. They are being attacked for doing their work as association leaders.”
“It is therefore unlawful and illogical to accuse association leaders of wrongs allegedly committed in the course of their leadership activities- which activities are within their mandate and lawful- but proceed to suspend them as employees deployed in their respective units.”
The law dons went to describe the suspension of the association leaders as “unacceptable” and “an attack on freedom of association and academic freedom, not only of those leaders but the entire academic and administrative staff of the University.”
Besides, the group noted, the suspended staff members are protected by several other laws which guarantee freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom to form and join associations.
“By suspending and gagging the leaders of MUASA and MASA, the university management is sending a message that staff leaders should not be independent and autonomous,” the lecturers added.
These advised Prof Nawangwe to cancel the suspensions of the Association leaders, after which it would be possible for the two sides to sit down discuss the existing substantive grievances”
Nawangwe however, insists that he was in his right to suspend insubordinate staff members, whom he accuses of trying to disrupt the progress of the university.
Such indiscipline, he says, cannot be tolerated at the university.