Ugandan president drags feet over law

November 9, 2001

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has failed to appoint chancellors at the country's four public universities despite a new law that requires him to do so.

Historically, the head of state has been the chancellor of public universities. Under the University and Tertiary Institutions Act 2001, the president must relinquish the posts and appoint chancellors.

The president is supposed to appoint replacements during a transitional period, which ends in April 2002. The universities are concerned that six months after the act was passed, there has been no indication that the president intends to fulfil his obligations.

Administrators at Makerere University, who were hoping to have a new chancellor in place in time for October's graduation ceremony, had to make do with the president - as they have done since 1986 when he first came to power after a military coup.

The president's position was never questioned when Makerere was Uganda's only university. But since the mid-1990s, the number of public universities has risen to four. The president has sent representatives to the various universities from time to time.

His absence at graduation ceremonies has led the universities to question the relevance of his role.

All past heads of state, including president Idi Amin, who ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979, have assumed the post of chancellor. This has given the president a say in how universities are run.

As a result of the president's role as chancellor, past graduation ceremonies have been broadcast live on national television. Presidents have traditionally used such occasions for political ends.

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