Uganda: Ministry to Probe Claims of Sexual Abuse On Mak Students

University Council chairperson Lorna Magara , left, and Makerere Vice Chancellor prof Barnabas Nawangwe, leave Parliament.
6 November 2019

The Ministry of Educational officials yesterday assured the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Sports that they will investigate cases of alleged sexual harassment of Makerere University female students by security forces during last week's protests against the 15 per cent increment on tuition.

The education officials, who were led by State Minister of Higher Education John Muyingo, had informed the committee that no student was sexually harassed as earlier alleged by the university guild leadership.

"Allegations of sexual abuse of students have only emerged from social media. The university management has not received any complaint of alleged sexual abuse from students or police. Management had requested any student with a complaints of sexual abuse to come forward but no student came up," said Dr Kendrice Turyagyenda, the Director of Education Standards in the Ministry of Education.

She also said the university management had consulted students about the policy before it was approved and implemented by the university council in 2018.

However, the MPs instead criticised the ministry officials for basing on hearsay.

The chairperson of the committee, Mr Jacob Opolot, asked Mr Muyingo whether they have conducted their independent inquires on the allegations.

The MPs also asked for evidence that the students were consulted by the university management on the tuition policy.

The lawmakers also questioned why there was heavy deployment of military who also raided the students' halls of residence and destroyed property.

"Did the Ministry of Education conduct its own investigations on the situation at Makerere or they are just telling us lies basing on hearsay. I challenge you to go and establish what happened because the student guild leaders told us that a number of female student were raped," Mr Francis Zaake, the MP of Mityana Constituency, said.

Ms Turyagyenda said the ministry has not yet investigated the cases of alleged sexual harassment, but hurried to say they were going to do the needful.

Mr Muyingo said it was the role of former guild president Papa Were, who recommended the policy, to go back to his students to consult them.

He also said the ministry was not aware about the military deployment at Makerere University, use of tear gas and the raids, asking the MPs to summon officials from Internal Affairs to explain.

Officials turned away

The MPs yesterday turned away a team of officials from Internal Affairs and Defence ministries because they lacked copies of their report for all the committee members.

The Ministry of Defence team, who were led by minister Adolf Mwesigye and the Internal Affairs ministry led by their State Minister Kania Obiga were appearing before the committee to respond to queries of army involvement in Makerere University matters.

They appeared before the committee in the afternoon after the appearance of education officers.

They were also supposed to respond to the allegation of security officers allegedly harassing university female students and their raids on Lumumba Hall.

However, the officials from the two ministries had not carried enough copies of the report they were slated to present before the committee.

Mr Opolot asked the officials to go back and return today in the afternoon.

Mak officials turned away.

Officials from Makerere University led by the Vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe and the university council chairperson Lorna Magara were also turned away from the meeting because they came unannounced.

Situation

Mak situation remains unclear. Makerere University student leadership have said they have not been allowed to hold a general assembly of the student community to reach a common position on whether to call off or maintain the strike against the 15 per cent fees increment.

The police on Monday blocked the planned students general assembly.

Kampala Metropolitan spokesperson Patrick Onyango said the assembly was foiled after learning that some students were planning to hijack the assembly for other motives.

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