Campus Politics: Signs of What is to Come?
When we look at the increasing violence at Makerere University, all of us must be concerned. Lambert Rusoke explains why.
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First published: July 07, 2005
Anyone who has gone through Makerere University must have witnessed the ugly scenes that overshadow university activities. And this because of the strikes and demonstrations that have occurred for reasons like delay of payment for living out allowances, accidents involving university students and speeding motorists to mention a few. And, if I may add, they opt for non-peaceful means that consequently result in the destruction of property and at times the lives of humans aware and unaware.
One may have to scratch hard his memory to point out a time that elections in Africa were peaceful, without violence. The recently concluded guild presidential election at Makerere did not leave out the expectations of violence and thus, in the sense, continued with the accruing violence that has existed years on end. The university is supposed to be the place that trains future leaders in our country. Indeed it has, as most of the top legislators in town can be used as points of reference to the results of the hill. Therefore if elections at university are marred by violence, then it stipulates a threat to our country because these same people rioting now will be vying for political posts in the near years to come.
What are the causes of these violent scenes?
For starters leadership and power are sweet like we all would love to believe or have been made to believe by those who were once in power. Therefore, with all the merits that could be enjoyed when one wins an election, one has to fight for that once in lifetime opportunity, and do anything in his capacity to win the people’s hearts so that they can vote in his favor.
Being a guild president at the university can open the life gates for one after university, as your CV will be built on that backing. You may be retained by the university to work after graduation thereby saving you the stress of having to walk Kampala streets in search for employment. For example, the former two Makerere University Business School guild presidents are with the school working.
Prior to the elections, during campaigns, candidates will spill lots of money in a bid to please their voters. The term used at Makerere is ‘logistics’, so that things like sweets, bread, milk, roses, beer will be in supply. Each candidate will try to come up with different ideas to outdo their opponents. If one decides to send greeting messages to students’ phones, the other will order for them pens from NICE Uganda, with his names on. The recipients enjoy this activity. They even turn into a yardstick for being elected. For if you do not provide logistics statistically consider yourself out of the race.
University politics have unfortunately been built on three major vices i.e. tribalism, parties and religion in some instances.
As the run in for 2006 sets in, eyebrows are beginning to be raised as the opening of political space has already raised dust before we even get the transition. Candidates at the university have to show their true colors of which party they belong to as a way of accounting for the funds that may have been gotten from the party leaders to boost the campaigns.
As if that was not enough, the issue went into tribes. The target was to elude the westerners from winning the top honors. These days any talk about westerners is being related to the current crop that is enjoying from the current regime. One article recently caught my eyes. It was titled “Who said westerners are better off?” What the author was emphasizing was that it is wrong to think that everyone from western Uganda benefits from the current regime as people claim. How does someone who earns his living the hard way like any Ugandan be termed as well off?
I overheard one furious campus girl who was not amused and exclaimed, “Was it our fault that we are westerners?” I would not love to believe that campus grooms tribalism.
When it comes to religion, it gets out of hand. So many students do pray, but it so turns out that maybe the religion they practice is that of “pretence”. The church preaches unity and togetherness. Then why does electing a guild president be cause for such divisions?
Even the looks of a candidate do dictate in the elections. For goodness sakes, what have looks got to do with the efficiency of someone? That is campus politics where you find mainly girls debating on which candidate is more of a hunk to determine their choice. Sounds childish to the outsider, but this is campus politics.
The whole situation really ticks off so many people, especially when the bad politicking techniques above are used to incite violence, thereby even taking on the innocent ones. Take for the case of where students from Lumumba Hall raided and destroyed property of Mary Stuart (“Box”) on reasons that boxers did not comply to the lumbox by not voting for a Lumumba candidate.
Leadership has to do with organizing society for harmonious purposes. Now the situation at campus has the whole nation worried of what kind of legislators are to emerge from there and may be a forecast of what might happen in 2006. Something must be done otherwise instead of building a prosperous future for our country; the young lads may actually hinder it. Need I say more?
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First published: July 07, 2005