Some things in this country just keep sucking. With all these parochial calls for districts, tribal interests, ring-fencing, blah blah, one would imagine that the “intellectuals” would rise above this and maybe be the voices of sanity.
But how do you explain this? Makerere University lecturers met last week and voted to have the position of vice chancellor “ring-fenced” for only Ugandans. According to the academic staff association chairperson, Mr Tanga Odoi, they would not recognise a non-Ugandan if s/he assumed the position that falls vacant at the end of the end of next month. Letting a non-Ugandan become vice-chancellor would be equal to “mortgaging” the institution to foreign control, they argued.
So, here they are our elites. These guys have forgotten that in the 21st century, advancing notions synonymous with the early Stone Age just can’t stand. Even in the pre-civilisation era, tribes realised the importance of neighbours—that is why we had cross-kingdom trade. It is why Arabs came to the East African coast and people from the coast scoured the hinterland for goods. Yes, that our forefathers knew no man could be an island—but our modern day academics are yet to imbibe this fact.
What Makerere University needs is fresh, focused leadership that appreciates its problems but importantly has the right work method to help it compete with other institutions at a global level. This kind of leadership does not necessarily have to be home-grown as the Tanga Odois of this world seem to believe.
The world is quickly becoming a global village—and progressive thinking must be outside the box. We can no longer work; behave like we are marooned on an island. It is why even dictators strive to cover their behinds—knowing a Hague exists. It is for the same reason today that surgery can be performed in Uganda but with the expert surgeons sitting somewhere in the US.
Makerere University’s global rankings have received a battering lately because the institution has failed to demonstrate its presence (through publication of research) on the world stage. And this is not a problem that will be resolved by an inward looking leader—as the lecturers are demanding.
To address Makerere’s complex concerns also call for someone with some level of exposure and probably international connections. By seeking to ring-fence the position, lecturers might just be eliminating the right solution to their problems.
Makerere should not exclude people from competing for the post of vice chancellor just because they are non-Ugandan, and similarly, no one should be favoured for the position simply because they are Ugandans. It would only be fair and in the institution’s best interest that all candidates are subjected to the same standards of evaluation and the position offered to the best candidate, Ugandan or not. Kyambogo University went this road—why is Makerere chickening?
I personally know a couple of good brains at that hill, who can help steer Makerere from the knee-deep mud in which it is stuck today. One such person, I believe, is Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba. He has been decorated by over 1001 universities/agencies for his accomplishments in the ICT sector. His faculty has become a role-model of sorts—in the region. But I would not want to imagine that he can become vice chancellor because opposition from without was curtailed on technicalities. Let him, and others like Prof. Ddumba, face competition from other deserving candidates—whether Cameroonian, Kenyan or Malagasy.
I have lately witnessed an injustice take place. A friend—a competent person at their job—lost a job just because they are Kenyan working in Uganda. It looks like as a country, we are embracing xenophobia with alarming interest. But it is boiling down even to our single units—family, clans, tribe, districts etc. That’s why suddenly Banyoro can’t stand Bafuruki, Banyala resent Baganda, Jopadhola ‘hate’ Iteso—and vice versa, etc.
Why are we taking this path?? Why??