Prof Balunywa Re-appointment: How Prof Baryamureeba Shot Himself in the Foot
Prof Balunywa Has Last Laugh on Mubs Principal Job
Uganda’s three-decade president Yoweri Museveni has disregarded a decision by the Makerere University Business School (Mubs) council to force two-decade principal to step aside as the controversy over his quest to extend his leadership at the institution gets resolved.
Museveni also disregarded a directive by his wife Janet, who is also Uganda’s education minister, to the Education Service Commission to fast track the replacement of Balunywa.
Janet Museveni’s letter was written on April 11, about three weeks to the expiry of Balunywa’s term on May 3.
The first lady had directed that the process be expedited to “avoid a leadership vacuum”.
Even Mubs council chairperson and former presidential candidate Prof Venansius Balunywa had told Balunywa it was time up.
Balunywa was born in 1955 and is aged 63. He has spent about two decades of his life at Mubs.
Baryamureeba had reminded Balunywa of Section 12 of the Pension Act Cap 286 which bars anyone who is 60 years and above from holding public office.
In response, Balunywa accused Baryamureeba of wanting him ejected to have his job.
Baryamureeba is former Makerere University vice chancellor. Mubs is a constituent college of Makerere.
Junior works minister Asuman Kiyingi would later join the Balunywa-Baryamureeba war of words.
“A scheming Baryamureeba exploiting his tribal and religious networks is fighting to grab the job,” claimed minister Kiyingi.
“[Balunywa] suffers the double tragedy of being a Musoga and a Muslim at the same time in a system that looks down upon both.”
So, how Exactly Did Baryamureeba Shoot Himself in the Foot?
Although Baryamureeba’s argument that Balunywa has clocked retirement age – in addition to being at the helm of Mubs for two decades – might make sense, the former presidential candidate’s attempt at making the law work hit a political hurdle.
And politics took the day.
Bad Baryamureeba and Balunywa, Museveni’s Good Boy
First, Baryamureeba contested against Museveni in the 2016 presidential election. Even when the professor polled miserably, Museveni would have certainly loved to see him off the ballot. (Of course some argue that Baryamureeba was Museveni’s candidate – against Museveni himself).
It would therefore be imprudent for Baryamureeba to expect better treatment from a man whose seat he wanted.
Considering how Museveni has treated those he disagrees with (such as former premier Amama Mbabazi), Baryamureeba should never have expected his views to matter – even if he invoked the law. In such a case, politics is superior to all laws – including the supreme law of the land, at least according to Museveni’s way of doing things.
To Museveni, Balunywa was loyal cadre who listened to him – and should also be listened to instead of the defiant Baryamureeba who even ran against him in a presidential election.
After all, as Museveni said in the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign, Baryamureeba was a “young boy” who had failed to manage Makerere University.
“This young boy [Baryamureeba]; if he failed to manage a school, just a small village, will he be able to manage 38 million people?” Museveni said in 2015.
Baryamureeba had responded to Museveni saying the president had previously praised him for his good work at Makerere, including awarding him a gold medal on October 9, 2013.
It now seems Museveni has not changed his mind on Baryamureeba.
On the other hand, Museveni’s letter reversing Mubs council’s decision to force Balunywa to step aside and have his deputy, Prof Moses Muhwezi, take over in acting capacity, is full of praises for Balunywa.
The president said Balunywa was on the “liberation side of ideology… in addition to being an active administrator”.
“His [Balunywa’s] institution [Mubs] has been free of strikes; I have never found him averse of advice the times I have interacted with him. Such a person is always good to work with,” added the president.
“His institution has been free of strikes; I have never found him averse of advice the times I have interacted with him. Such a person is always good to work with.”
Age Limit Ideology
Secondly, Baryamureeba seemed to have pressed the wrong button when he broached Balunywa’s exit attempt from an ‘age limit’ angle.
Museveni is fresh from a war against his age limit – and as far as he is concerned, age does not matter even if the law says so. He has succeeded in having his age limit issue resolved and seems keen on employing anyone he wants to – regardless of their age.
And this line from Museveni’s letter reinstating Prof Balunywa is a direct attack on Baryamureeba and those who push for age limits.
To the president, Baryamureeba and age limit proponents are ideologically bankrupt – and disoriented.
“One of the obstacles that have wasted our time is a disoriented pro-imperialism academia,” wrote Museveni on May 28, 2018.
According to Balunywa, the Pension Act is “an obscure law”.
“This law has nothing to do with appointment of Principals of Public Tertiary Institutions or for that matter even public universities,” Balunywa had responded to Baryamureeba.
“Having been a Vice Chancellor of a university, I am sure you know the age of the different former and current Vice Chancellors in the country.”
Museveni’s Word is Final
Even when Janet Museveni had instructed the Education Service Commission to start on a process to replace Balunywa, Baryamureeba should have treaded carefully, not to cause what is now being seen as a public disagreement between the president and the first lady.
Balunywa thinks Janet’s directive was based on Baryamureeba’s schemes.
“The various press reports have attempted create a negative image about me to the Minister and First lady,” claimed Balunywa.
“ I believe your intention is to anger the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, the other Ministers of Education, the Permanent Secretary and make me a villain.”
As far as minister Kiyingi and Prof Balunywa were concerned, Museveni was behind the latter’s re-appointment – and this made every other factor secondary.
“The President wants Professor Balunywa re-appointed as Mubs Principal,” claimed Kiyingi.
“I hope this time round the President prevails over these sectarian forces [like Baryamureeba] holding him hostage.”
To Kiyingi, all Baryamureeba’s attempts to block Balunywa’s re-appointment was tribal and religious sectarianism. To him, no other factor should stop Museveni’s anointed from being reinstated – not even the law, not the age limit.
And as soon as the issue took a tribal line, it became difficult for Baryamureeba to even claim he was not interested in Balunywa’s job.
“A scheming Baryamureeba exploiting his tribal and religious networks is fighting to grab the job,” wrote Kiyingi.
“I would like to categorically state that after serving as Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, I have no interest in serving as Vice Chancellor of any other University or Principal of any tertiary institution including Mubs,” responded Baryamureeba.
Even Balunywa knew Museveni was on his side.
The president had summoned him over press reports of his feud with Baryamureeba.
I was invited by His Excellency the President over these articles,” revealed Balunywa recently.
“I cannot divulge our discussions because it will be a breach of trust however the conclusion was that I should continue to serve Mubs.”
Baryamureeba’s U-turn on Recommending Balunywa
Baryamureeba has admitted recommending Balunywa for re-appointment even when he knew the age limit would stand in his way.
“In writing, on March 5, I recommended Prof Balunywa for reappointment and this letter was copied to him,” wrote Baryamureeba in a rebuttal to minister Kiyingi.
“I still recommended him for re-appointment any way as long as he met the eligibility criteria.”
But Balunywa accuses Baryamureeba of using the recommendation to deal him a blow.
“You should have consulted me whether I wanted to continue as Principal instead you chose to recommend and subsequently discredit me,” wrote Balunywa to Baryamureeba.
“I was shocked because you did not consult me. I later on gathered that you did not circulate this letter other than to the Council members.”
And as far as he is concerned, Baryamureeba’s “recommendation was in bad faith and was intended to pre-empt my expression of interest to continue as Principal of Mubs if I had so wished”.
And Balunywa also claims Baryamureeba has denied ever recommending him for re-appointment.
“I have learnt that on receipt of the copy of the letter to the Minister of Education and Sports to His Excellency the President, you chose to disown your first letter recommending me for the position,” claims Balunywa.
And that letter of recommendation the former presidential candidate’s greatest undoing.
President Museveni had used it to re-appoint Balunywa “since you [Baryamureeba] had recommended me”.