The proposed appointment of Professor William Bazeyo as the Chancellor of Makerere University has ignited a storm of controversy and apprehension among the staff, alumni, and stakeholders. This contentious issue centers around doubts concerning Professor Bazeyo’s academic qualifications and his suitability for such a prestigious role.

Various staff associations, including the Makerere Joint Staff Associations of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa), Makerere Administrative Staff Association (Masa), and Nuei, have formally petitioned President Yoweri Museveni, urging him to withhold consideration of Professor Bazeyo for the Chancellorship position. 

“Section 30 (1) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001 (as amended) gives the University Council the powers to recommend candidates to you for appointment to the position of Chancellor. However, Prof. Bazeyo holds a doctoral degree from a university that is not accredited,” reads the petition. The National Council for Higher Education confirmed this in a letter written on 29h July 2020. Yet, while acting as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Finance and Administration after the High Court nullified his appointment, Prof. Bazeyo submitted the unrecognized degree to secure a substantive appointment to the same position.

“It is unconscionable that a holder of an unrecognized degree can be qualified to head a university of Makerere’s reputation as a Chancellor let alone to confer degrees. Although we acknowledge that the University Council acted within its powers pursuant to Section 30 (1) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001 (as amended), the same law Section 26 (2) gives you powers to perform an overall supervisory and superintendent role over the affairs of the University.”

”We are requesting that you give Makerere University a Chancellor that is not academically stained and befits Makerere’s image and legacy,” adds the petition. This controversy is the latest in a series of issues that have emerged at Makerere University since December last year when the search for a new Chancellor began after the end of Professor Ezra Suruma’s term. Despite plans to conclude the selection process in time for the 74th graduation, this did not materialize, and Vice-Chancellor Professor Barnabas Nawangwe presided instead. 

Subsequent developments in the process have not been communicated by the University.  Unverified reports have since revealed that the University Council has already nominated Professor William Bazeeyo and Engineer Charles Wana Etyem and sent their names to the President for approval sparking unrest within the University circles.

This added to several accusations that some of the staff, students, and alumni have pinned on the administration and council for making rash decisions that have harmed the operations of the institution and as a result, soiled its image.

Earlier this month, URN reported that Sam Ninsiima, one of the alumni petitioned Museveni not to accept the Council’s recommendation to appoint Bazeeyo for allegedly prioritizing their interests at the detriment of the broader University community. 

“Your Excellence, kindly allow me to inform you of the undeserved selection of Mr. William Bazeyo for Chancellorship and the syndicate associated with the appointment of leaders at Makerere University. What used to be a merit-based system has been replaced with manipulation and interests of individuals in the Council motivated by power and money. The key question to ponder is what is the future of Education under the National Resistance Movement?” he asked.    

Ninsiima alleged that Professor Bazeyo has already been implicated in holding a false Ph.D. and questioned how a person who owns a fraudulent Ph.D. would issue legitimate degrees to students. “How can someone with questionable/fake academic documents be shortlisted while two candidates with credible academic records and who have served the nation with distinction be dropped?” Ninsiima asked. 

“If a person with a Questionable Ph.D. is appointed to be Chancellor, while the current Vice Chancellor’s Professorship is also reported to be fraudulent and questionable, who will then trust Makerere University’s degrees anymore? In light of 3 above, will the two appointees have the moral authority to question the appointment of other Professors in the University?” reads part of Ninsiima’s letter. 

Professor Nawangwe confirmed that they had sent a list of nominees to the President but refrained from mentioning any of the candidates. “The position of Chancellor is a Council matter. Nominations have been sent to the Visitor who will make the appointment,” Nawangwe briefly told this reporter. According to the basic eligibility criteria for candidates as released by the University, the applicant must a be citizen of Uganda, have at least a bachelor’s degree from a recognized higher institution of learning, and be an eminent person of high integrity and with good public relations. 

It is against this backdrop that Ninsiima pleaded with the President to kindly reflect on the context he submitted in his letter and protect the image of the premier university in the country and Africa during the appointment of the Chancellor. It should be recalled that in 2020 Professor William Bazeyo, who was the acting Makerere University Deputy Vice-Chancellor in Charge of Finance and Administration, resigned amidst questions about his academic credentials and similarly withdrew his candidature from the ongoing search for the substantive Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Finance and Administration).

The professor of occupational medicine and former Dean of the School of Public Health had long been embroiled in a conflict with alumni who questioned the integrity of his qualifications for the position, which he had held as acting for the previous four years.  The petitioners then who included Sam Ninsiima himself accused Bazeyo of obtaining his Ph.D. from the Hawaii-based Atlantic International University, which isn’t recognized by the United States Department of Education which the National Council for Higher Education (NHCE) concurred with, saying Atlantic International University wasn’t recognized by the council.      

A lecturer who recently talked to URN on condition of anonymity to speak candidly on the matter accused the University Council of being overshadowed by dealers and can no longer protect the academic integrity of Makerere University. “It is unfortunate that the University Council is now overshadowed by dealers and can no longer protect the academic integrity of Makerere University anymore. Bazeyo should not have been shortlisted in the first place. How can someone with a fake PhD award genuine Ph. D.s? Where will the learners derive inspiration?” a source recently told URN.

“Thirdly, as soon as recently, he has been running two Makerere University Centers i.e. the Tobacco Centre and Resilient African Network (RAN). This is a glaring conflict of interest. When he applied for the chancellorship, the websites of these centers were edited to remove his name, but we know he is clearly in the background. What happened to academic morality?” questioned a source.

The Chancellor is the titular head of the University. He presides at all ceremonial assemblies of the University and in this name, confers degrees and other academic titles and distinctions. The Chancellor is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the University Council.

Professor Ezra Suruma, a former Finance and Economics Development Minister is the last Chancellor of Makerere University. He took over from Prof. George Mondo Kagonyera, the Second non-head of State Chancellor who served for two (2) terms from 23rd October 2007 to 23rd October 2015.

Before Kagonyera, it was only Professor Apollo Nsibambi who was also a non-head served as Makerere University Chancellor between 2003-2007. Previously, several heads of state had served as Makerere University Chancellors including Yoweri Museveni who served from 1986 to 2002, Apollo Milton Obote who served from 1970-1971, 1981-1985, and Idi Amin Dada who served from 1971 to 1979.


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