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Lawyers condemn Prof. Nawangwe on decision to close Makerere Law School

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Lawyers in Uganda under the umbrella of Uganda Law Society (ULS) on Thursday condemned Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe over his decision that the university council shuts down Law School, claiming the latter was inciting the academic staff to strike.

“The Uganda Law Society has learned with great concern of the recommendation that the Vice Chancellor Makerere University has forwarded to the University Council to shut down the School of Law indefinitely, require all members of staff to hand over university property and to send the students home,” said Simon Peter M. Kinobe, ULS’s president.

Kinobe said in a statement that his organisation stands ready to help lecturers if they are treated unfairly. “We will not hesitate to stand behind any stakeholder who is treated unfairly or illegally should the situation escalate,” he said.

Weeks ago, following the Vice Chancellor’s suspension of three leaders that form part of the leadership of the Staff Associations at Makerere University, a team of academic staff at the School of Law wrote a Legal Opinion to the Vice Chancellor in which they counseled that his actions were outside the powers conferred to him by statute.

The university management would then send to the School, saying the advice rendered by members of staff was at variance with the interpretation accorded to the law by the Legal Department of the University. The leadership at the School of Law about two days ago received a directive from the University’s Director Human Resource requiring that members of staff be required to return to work immediately and headcount be conducted. That any person who did not heed this position was to be treated as having absconded from duty.

Following the receipt of this circular, the leadership of the School of Law convened an emergency School Board Meeting to deliberate a way forward. It was unanimously resolved at this meeting that members of staff are bound by the decisions of their respective Associations. Further, it was resolved that both academic and support staff of the School would remain on strike until the impasse between the University administration and the Staff Associations was resolved. Nawangwe took that as indiscipline.

Kinobe said the Constitution of Uganda enjoins each member of staff, as a citizen of Uganda, to both promote democracy and the rule of law; and to engage in gainful employment for the good of that citizen, the family and the common good. “To be a Proficient Bar Association in Fostering Access to Justice, the Rule of Law and Good Governance in Uganda.

He says as the impasse at Makerere subsists the future of 40,000 students stands in the balance which he said is very unfortunate. “Uganda Law Society commends the members of the academic staff of the School of Law for stepping up to offer guidance to the University Administration on the legal issues surrounding the present impasse,” he said.

“Uganda Law Society further notes that in addition to training the largest number of lawyers in Uganda, the School of Law has trained and influenced the legal profession in Africa. Some of the scholars at this great institution have world-wide recognition in their chosen fields of specialty. The School of Law has made an immeasurable contribution to fostering the rule of in Uganda. It would be both illegal and high-handed to shut down the School of Law because members exercised their rights in law and offered guidance in a time of crisis,” he said.

He said that the impasse be resolved immediately to avoid continuous loss to the affected students and the financially strained parents that pay tuition. “These are students/parents that have done nothing wrong and should not become victims to such circumstances. We also urge, that a confrontation between the School of Law and the University be avoided. President – Uganda Law Society,” he said.

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