MUASA Protests “Illegal” Suspension of Staff Tribunal

Makerere University Academic Staff Association-MUASA is protesting the suspension of the University Staff Tribunal by the University Council.

The Tribunal’s work was suspended last month by the University Council on the advice of the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka. A letter written by the University secretary Yusuf Kiranda shows that the tribunal was not properly constituted. It was followed by the suspension of Chairperson Justice Tabaro.

“In the interim, the Council has directed me to halt all activities of the Staff Tribunal as the relevant organs expedite the necessary actions following the Attorney General’s guidance…The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to inform you of the Council’s directives,” Kiranda stated in a letter dated April 6, 2023.

Kiryowa-Kiwanuka who until his appointment as Attorney General was part of the Makerere University Council and chaired the Appointments Board, was responding to questions raised by the University Secretary regarding the functioning of the Tribunal.

Over the years, the Tribunal has played a crucial role in offering an alternative avenue for University staff who have been dismissed to challenge the decisions of the Appointments Board and to obtain a just and unbiased hearing. However, since its suspension, nothing has been happening.

In an interview with URN earlier, a source that preferred anonymity to speak candidly on the matter, said the University’s purported justification for halting the staff tribunal based on having an eligible chairperson is merely a cover-up. The source contends that the real cause of the suspension is the Council’s dissatisfaction with the majority of the decisions rendered by the tribunal under the leadership of Tabaro.

The source noted that the majority of the staff who were illegally dismissed by the Appointments Board had been reinstated by the Tribunal after a fair hearing, a move that she believes left the Council displeased.

In May 2022, Javason Kamugisha the former Director of Legal Services at Makerere University appealed to the Tribunal over his illegal dismissal after serving for a year and he was told to vacate the office. Kamugisha later petitioned the Tribunal, which granted him a temporary injunction, prohibiting the University from re-advertising his position until the disposal of his appeal.

In January 2023, the Tribunal chaired by Justice Tabaro ordered Makerere University to pay salary arrears of close to 100 Million Shillings to Kamugisha for unfairly terminating his contract which according to sources is yet to be implemented.

Now, in his letter dated  May 3, 2023, MUASA Chairperson Dr Robert Kakuru, noted that they were shocked to hear that the University Staff appeals tribunal has spent some time without sitting because it had no chairperson to preside over the sittings.

He said that the members of MUASA realized that this is an anomaly and suicidal in nature for a University to run without a staff Tribunal because this is a very important safeguard for any member of staff who is aggrieved and this can happen anytime.

In their argument, the solicitation of advice from the Attorney General was not in good faith, based on the subsisting relation between the University management, the Appointments Board, and the staff Tribunal. MUASA members further argued that the solicitation of legal opinion/ guidance from, and actual guidance by the Attorney General never followed the right procedures.

They also noted that there are plans by the University management to bring some former members of the Appointments Board to head the staff Tribunal, among other arguments.

“…We are concerned that the University management and University Council are hatching a move to bring some former members of the Appointments Board to head the staff Tribunal. This is intended to always accommodate their wrongs before the staff Tribunal.” Reads part of the letter.

Subsequently, MUASA rejected the Attorney General’s legal opinion and contends that it should not be implemented at all. “In any case, this is the biased opinion of a former Chairperson of the Appointments Board, a person who made wrong decisions in the Appointments Board and expressed his opinion in writing against the composition and work of the Staff Appeals Tribunal.” Reads part of the letter

MUASA further contended that the University management and the University council should desist from interfering with the operations and management of the Staff Appeals Tribunal, including developing Rules and Regulations for the Tribunal among others.

Members are of the View that no person or Lawyer/ Judge should be appointed to chair the staff Appeals Tribunal whose knowledge, ability, and integrity are questionable. In addition, no former members (s) of the University Appointments Board or Council should be appointed to Chair or serve as members of the Staff Tribunal, because of conflict of interest”

“MUASA requests your urgent intervention in the reconstitution of the University Staff Appeals Tribunal to avert the subsisting and imminent miscarriage of Justice for our members that need the services of the Tribunal. In particular, we advise that the following be done:”

“The Chairperson of the Tribunal be retained in his position and concludes all the matters that have been heard by him and other members of the Tribunal and delivers judgments/rulings in all the concluded matters where all the submissions are before the Tribunal. That’s all the pending hearings where evidence has been given to be concluded as per the evidence on record” the letter reads.

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