Following the incident that happened in July 2022, when Betungura Bewatte, a student of law at UCU, was stubbed to death in Makerere University during students’ guild elections campaigns that turned violent as a result of confrontations from the supporters of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the University Council resolved to suspend physical guild elections, including campaigns and debates, and opt for the virtual electoral process.
This was intended to put an end to the long-term behaviour of politicians, especially from the opposition and political party leaders, who used to interfere with student leadership with the aim of serving their personal interests instead of students’ welfare.
The University Council in November 2022 enacted what is referred to as the “Makerere University Students Leadership Statute 2022” to, among other things, govern the students’ guild and students’ representatives election processes. The statute also establishes a students’ association known as the Makerere University Students Guild.
According to Article 6(6)(2) of the Statute, the student association is non-partisan, non-denominational, and non-violent, and is open to all students of Makerere University without discrimination.
The move by the university management to limit national politics’ influence and political parties’ affiliations in the students’ affairs is smart and safe for the students’ learning environment.
For about two decades now, external political influence on student leadership at Makerere University has propagated intolerance and disharmony within the student body. These conflicts have often resulted in confrontations that have resulted in the loss of lives and property.
The student leaders elected based on political parties’ affiliations don’t represent the interests of the students that voted for them but rather those of the political parties to which they subscribe.
I understand the decision will meet resistance, especially from the different politicians who get the most out of the divisions and conflicts within the students’ body.
In spite of the resistance, in order to safeguard the well-being of all students, especially in the higher institutions of learning, all stakeholder groups in the education sector should support the move by protecting students from the harmful political environment in the country.