Great lakes University fails to open for new academic term

By Sophan Niwamanya 

Chaos today rocked the Great Lakes Regional University in Kanungu district as a section of students flocked the university, demanding to know the state of affairs there. This happened amidst a heightened ownership battle of the university between the founder, Bishop Hamlet Kabushenga, and other directors led by Honest Wilkins Natukwasa.

The ongoing battle has so far affected Great Lakes Regional University under the Child-Family Community Development Organization (CHIFCOD) and other learning institutions under the same management. These are Kirima, Nyamirama, Nyakabungo, Rutenga parents’ primary schools, and Great Lakes High School.

The Civil Division High Court in Kampala had in December 2021 issued an injunction barring Kabushenga and his wife Esther Kellen Mbabazi from accessing the premises of CHIFCOD learning institutions until the main suit in which he (Kabushenga) is accused of alleged financial mismanagement was heard.

CHIFCOD funders in June 2020 forced Kabushenga, who founded Great Lakes University in 2004, to resign, citing financial impropriety. Funders replaced Kabushenga with Natukwasa. 

However, on this month 2, Kabushenga, with the escort of Gad Rugaaju Ahimbisibwe, Kanungu Deputy Resident District Commissioner, and police, stormed all learning institutions and evicted Natukwasa’s faction. 

Students in the morning hours walked into the university premises in Kirima Sub County to resume studies as per the Ministry of Education and Sports calendar year, which guarantees the national opening of schools across the country. However, on reaching the university premises, the students found a group of muscle men donning black civilian clothes while armed with clubs, iron bars, machetes, and axes patrolling.

Later, another group led by Kabushenga appeared and described the group as his private security. He also ordered the students to undergo validation. On trying to inquire about the reasons behind the validation, Kabushenga described them as hooligans and drove away.

After driving away, students and the group described by Kabushenga as his security started exchanging words with attempts to exchange feasts.

This led police at around noon to intervene and start chasing students out of the university premises to allow officers and the group to remain there alone. Students turned down the police order amidst insults from both parties.

Bruce Christmas Katuusi, the student guild speaker, told our reporter that he reported to the university well-prepared to study. Katuusi, however, said that he was shocked to find unidentified people armed with fighting tools and claiming to be the ones in charge. Katuusi said that when he tried to inquire who the group was, they attempted to beat him.

Our reporter reached Great Lakes Regional University and observed that all offices and lecture rooms were closed. Our reporter also visited other learning institutions in Kirima, Nyamirama, Nyakabungo, Rutenga parents’ primary schools, and Great Lakes High School and found the deployment of armed police officers deployed to prevent Natukwasa’s faction from accessing. Slow reporting by learners was also observed. 

Martin Kafanta Atukwasa, the Public Relations Officer of Natukwa’s faction, condemned police and armed group deployment, saying that it has led to the university’s failure to open. He also says that Natukwasa’s faction has already filed a contempt of court lawsuit against Kabushenga for conducting an illegal eviction. He also appeals for the intervention of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and other relevant government departments so that the matter is solved once and for all.

Atukwasa says that some local politicians have brought their selfish interests into an issue of great public concern.

Charles Okello, the Kanungu District Police Commander, later addressed some of the disgruntled students at the university and asked them to remain calm as authorities handle the situation.

Kabushenga told our reporter that he has no problem with police deployment at the institutions because it ensures sanity. Kabushenga insists that CHIFCOD belongs to him and his family. He also described the students who were blocked from university premises as militia.

By press time, the university was still closed. Anti-riot police were still deployed at the university and all other institutions.