Uganda’s government has vowed to act after President Yoweri Museveni shut down the country’s largest university following what the state described as student riots.
Students from Kampala’s Makerere University started vacating the campus after heavy security was drafted in following Museveni’s orders for the university’s closure on Tuesday (1 November).
The move follows intense clashes between police and students, who were protesting a lecturers’ strike.
Lecturers have been on strike for a week now as they claimed they had not received salaries for eight months, and have vowed to remain on strike until they receive unpaid allowances worth UGX32bn (£7.53m). Students were protesting for their return.
According to BBC, security forces used tear gas and water canon to disperse the crowds. The government, on Tuesday evening, said the shutdown was “to guarantee the safety of persons and property”.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye has encouraged the university’s 40,000 students to defy the vacation orders, but critics accused him of “politicising academic issues”.
Students have started leaving the main campus, which is the one facing the most disruption. For many students the directive is unjust and vacating the campus at short notice is an issue. Simon Kabuye, a student of telecom engineering told New Vision: “We have been given little time to vacate the premises yet most of us come from very far.”
Land survey and geomatics student, Isaac Okello, also told the newspaper he was from Northern Uganda and did not have transport. “What can I do? Why don’t they use the money they are wasting on all these policemen to pay the lecturers so that we remain at school?”
Another student, Kenneth Odong who is training to become a vet, said: “Most of us have already paid our tuition, now will government refund our money? This is an unjust decision by the president.”