Former president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Dr Kizza Besigye has condemned the arrests and detention of students at Makerere University who were protesting against the 15 per cent tuition increment.
The new fees structure is being implemented so that all new students enrolling at Makerere have to factor in an annual 15 per cent increment over the next five years until when tuition has been increased by at least 65 per cent.
It was passed by the University Council in June 2018. For the past two days, the university has been a hive of activity, as students engaged security agencies in running battles.
Police used teargas and live bullets to pursue the rowdy students who are calling for the cancellation of the fees increment policy. Army officers also raided student halls of residence on Tuesday and Wednesday night, beating and arresting a number of students including the students guild speaker Ezra Byakutangaza, and the guild president Julius Kateregga.
Social media videos emerged on Wednesday showing military police personnel raiding and breaking into rooms at Lumumba Hall and University Hall (UH) and indiscriminately beating students and destroying their property.
Now, Besigye says Makerere is a public institution that should not sanction such ‘inconsiderate’ fees hikes given the economic situation. He contends that there is no way President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni would have studied if such hard economic conditions were created at the time he went to school. A female student, Siperia Mollie Saasiraabo who led a peaceful protest against fees increment is currently admitted in Mengo hospital following an attack by unknown people.
“As we talk now hundreds of Makerere students are in prison over hiked fees. They are only crying to say this is a public institution. It is not a private institution, it is a public institution. We send our children to get knowledge not being abused in the most disturbing ways. I have been saying time and time again that Mr Museveni would have never had a degree in his life if he studied in the period he has created. If he was a student himself, there was no way his father, the late Mr Kaguta would pay millions for his son. There is no way.”
The university vice-chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has previously defended the hike saying Makerere is currently charging some of the lowest tuition fees in the country and region. Besigye says there is a continuous wave of terror at Makerere University aimed at denying students their right to express discontent at hiking of tuition fees.
“Yet you release soldiers, armed to the teeth with helmets and all kinds of things to go and terrorize and torture students who are simply complaining that the fees have become intolerable. Injustice! Economic injustice,” Besigye said on Thursday.
He added: “We are talking about political injustice, where people have no political voice. The whole idea of living together is that we have equal rights but you know that we live in a country where we have no voice.”
– Tweraneko campaign –
Besigye also announced a new activism campaign, dubbed ‘Tweraneko’ aka ‘Article 3 Campaign’ which he said will seek to address the ongoing injustices in the country. Besigye said there is a need for the citizenry to come together in a convention and discuss matters relating to rising criminality, inequality and rising injustice.
“The purpose of the state is what is enshrined in the Constitution, and once the state fails then the duty, the responsibility falls back on us,” said Besigye.
He said at the national convention, they will devise their own solutions to ongoing problems.