Royals bolster tradition

January 2, 1998

The Buganda kingdom of Uganda is to establish a university at a former military barracks.

Mengo University will be the first of its kind to be set up by traditional monarchs in Uganda. Former president Milton Obote overthrew the tribal rulers in 1966, but the Kabaka and other monarchies were restored by President Yoweri Museveni in 1993.

He promised to return palaces and property that had been forfeited to central government. Lubiri Palace, where the university is to be sited, reverted back to Kabaka Ronald Mutebi last year.

Mengo will be the only university in East Africa to be run by a local authority. According to Buganda education minister John Muyingo, it will cater for students who fail to get into Makerere and Mbarara universities.

Buganda's parliament directed Mr Muyingo to reclaim all schools built by the Kabakas before the monarchy was overthrown, including the Royal Kings College Buddo and Masaka Technical College, which are possible future campuses for the new university.

The parliament also asked the ministry of education to get in touch with academics interested in teaching at Mengo, the Bugandan capital. "We would like some of our people in universities abroad to come back and work here," said a prominent chief in Masaka, one of Buganda's districts.

The university will initially offer degree courses in languages, sciences and arts, with degrees and diplomas in computer science and applied technology later.

In addition to Makerere and Mbarara universities, Uganda has three smaller private universities - Uganda Martyrs, the Islamic University and National Christian University - offering degrees in education, social sciences and business management.

As with the other private universities in Uganda, Mengo will draw most of its teaching staff from Makerere. The ministry of education said the curriculum will be based on Makerere standards.

"We would like the new institution to compete with the rest of public universities in East Africa," said Mr Muyingo when he presented the Buganda higher education strategy in parliament.

While other monarchies in Uganda would like to establish their own universities, they are not in a position to compete with Buganda. Makerere, the oldest university in East Africa, is situated in Buganda and before 1963 offered University of London degrees.

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