Margaret Nattabi, National Unity Platform Official Candidate has been disqualified by the Makerere University Guild Electoral Commission from the forthcoming 89th University guild presidential elections on allegations of involvement in a political debate that turned violent, injuring a student in the process.
Margaret Nattabi was disqualified alongside Suleiman Namwoza (Independent NUP leaning candidate) for allegedly organizing a Guild Kimeza on the night of April 5, 2023 at Mitchell Hall on the night of April 5, 2023, an exercise which was banned from the university.
The political debate is said to have later turned violent leaving one student identified as Robert Sserunjogi injured in the process. Sserunjogi is said to have been among the participants in the Kimeza campaign.
In a letter dated April 06, 2023, Levi Tshilumba, the Chairperson of the 89th Guild Elections said the two candidates have since been disqualified as their actions are contrary to the University’s Guild Statute, Section 10 which calls for a violent free election process.
“This is to inform the Makerere University students’ body that Guild President aspirants Nattabi Margaret (Complex hall) and Namwoza Sulaiman (Mitchell Hall) have been disqualified from the 89th Guild Presidential race,” Tshilumba stated.
“The participation of Nattabi and Namwoza in this event is contrary to Makerere University Guild Statute 2022, Section 10, which stipulates that student elections shall be virtual unless otherwise determined by the University Council,” he added.
However, sources at the venue revealed to this publication that NUP’s Nattabi was not even at the venue where the scuffle happened and that the Dean of Students first met both Nattabi and Namwoza and tried to forge a way forward that seemed non-violent.
The dismissal of the two leading candidates according to sources that preferred anonymity said the dismissal of Nattabi and Namwoza is part of the plot by the University Administration to determine who sits on the University Council, the highest decision-making organ of the University.
Nattabi when contacted for a comment on the matter said the University had always wanted to block her from participating and winning the election and “Now, they are fulfilling what they long wanted.”
Nattabi added that the University is just fighting her on the base of the political party (NUP) yet other candidates are holding the Kimeeza in their halls of residence.
In 2022, Makerere University Council banned physical guild elections at the institution following the death of a student in a scuffle during campaigns for guild elections.
The NUP Principal, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine said this is an affront to the sacred concept of academic freedom and the constitutional rights to speech and association that any academic institution must guard with its very existence.
“Academic freedom requires that students should be able to express themselves freely without fear of repression. Only then can institutions of higher learning achieve their purpose as guardians of reason and inquiry. It reinforces the protection our Constitution guarantees for any citizen to freely express their opinions and associate with any group of their choice,” Kyagulanyi said.
He added that throughout history, those freedoms have been a constant sword against tyranny, injustice & oppression. To them, Uganda owes its independence and so does Makerere’s existence.
“It’s a shame that the University’s myopic leaders are now sacrificing at the altar of political expediency the very freedoms that secured them their current jobs in the first place! If they have any shame, they should reconsider the decision as it sets a terrible precedent,” Kyagulanyi expressed adding, “Comrade Nattabi and other similarly affected candidates should be left to participate in the guild race without being persecuted for their political affiliations.”