November 07, 2006

Uganda: Students, police clash over pay raise for lecturers

A Makerere University lecturers strike yesterday took a violent twist after it sucked in students who engaged riot Police in running battles.

Riled by a delay to resolve the lecturers pay rise demands which cost them their lectures, the students rampaged through the university, looting, barricading roads and setting bonfires.

Lumumba Hall residents lit bonfires at 7:00pm on Monday and moved from one hall to another mobilising students to join the strike, the Police said.

However, the university remained quiet in the night but violence erupted early morning when the students burgled the Guild Canteen, vandalised and emptied it of beer.

They broke into the newly-refurbished Senior Staff Club, emptied it of beer, vandalised it and scattered furniture.
They also vandalised the counter, pulled off refrigerators’ doors, looted all the goodies and lined the fence with knickers and brassieres. One of them attempted to de-roof the structure with a hoe.

Kampala Police chief Grace Turyagumanawe, who supervised the operation and addressed Nsibirwa hall residents, said the situation began degenerating on Monday night.

“At about 7:00pm, we began getting reports and stepped up surveillance but the situation escalated in the morning at about 5:00am when the students blocked the roads, lit bonfires and raided Lumumba hall canteen,” Turyagumanawe said.

But by 10:00am, relative calm had returned to the campus. Police spokesman Edward Ochom was on the spot.

The Police condemned the students’ behaviour as thuggery and hooliganism.

Four suspected looters were arrested and detained at the Wandegeya Police station, Turyagumanawe said. The Police identified them as Ronald Kyobe, a first-year student of tourism, Andrew Mubiru, a second-year student of social sciences and Alex Kagoro, a student of economics. Another 13 students, seven of them girls, were detained, raising the number to 17.

A 9:00am meeting by the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) was called off. However, the MUASA executive, who disagreed with Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi on Monday, met President Yoweri Museveni yesterday afternoon. Museveni is to meet the entire MUASA team today.

Early in the morning, anti-riot Police battled with striking students in Mitchell and Nkrumah halls. As they lobbed teargas at them, the students hurled back stones and obscenities.

They mocked the Police with derogatory songs. They sang, “Police our enemy; we shall never forget you.”

The much dreaded water canon sprayed teargas and shot powerful blasts of itching blue water into the halls, scattering the students. But the Police also had a rough time outside the main campus. Like their counterparts, students residing in hostels on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road and in the sprawling Kikoni slum, engaged the Police in a cat-and-mouse game, pelting them with stones before vanishing and regrouping later.

Military Police and armoured personnel vehicles were also deployed to quell the situation.

There was drama when the Police decided to flog the students off the streets. The students fled into Makerere Full Gospel Church where they melted into the lunch time congregation. The Police stopped outside.

Students lit fires on all roads in the university and at the main gate, which remained closed most of yesterday and was manned by heavily-armed policemen backed by special police constables. Entry and exit from the campus was restricted. The atmosphere was tense. Outside, all roads leading to and around the campus were sealed off and traffic diverted, creating huge traffic jams.

Fearing losses from rampaging students, Wandegeya, Kikoni and Kagugube residents kept their shops closed. Reports said the business community were armed with machettes to fend off looting students.


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