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  • Politics, Democratization and the Academy in Uganda: The Case of Makerere University

    As the oldest (and arguably best-known) university in Uganda and the wider eastern and central Africa region, Makerere University looms large in the history of higher education on the continent.  Alma mater to presidents, public intellectuals and pundits of all disciplines, Makerere has attracted considerable scholarly and popular attention, both in respect of its prominence and achievements, and well as with regard to its failures and foibles.  The proposed book focuses on a particularly understudied aspect of the place of higher education in the African context, i.e. the relationship between a public university of unique historical importance and the contestations over democratization that have taken place both within campus and outside of it.  It is built around the late-1980s struggle by the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) for improved living conditions against the backdrop of the early programs of structural adjustment and economic reform that the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M) government adopted soon after taking power in 1986.  Although seemingly introverted in focus, in many respects the MUASA action represented the earliest forms of political struggle against a regime of governance that promised a great deal, but disappointingly delivered considerably less.

    The focus on MUASA provides a critical entry-point to a wider debate about the place of organized democratic action by academics in a post-conflict context where the traditional institutions of political and civil society, i.e. political parties and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have either been severely compromised or discredited, or where they are too weak and inorganic to provide any form of significant counter-juxtaposition to the government in power.  By organizing the first strike by academic staff in the sixty-seven (67) year history of the university, for a time MUASA became the focal-point for democratic organizing against a regime that was yet to fully expose its nefarious and anti-democratic colours.  The book examines the broader issues concerning the relationship between organized academic action and democratization; the place of the Media in reviewing these struggles; the position of students as a critical component of academe; “big P” and “small p” politics affecting female academics, and finally, the paradoxical role of the School of Law in both aiding and inhibiting the struggle against dictatorship in a country which has enjoyed (or suffered) its fair share of autocratic governance.

    Collectively the chapters demonstrate that there is neither a single narrative nor a textbook formula about the relationship between the academy and democratic struggles.  Thus, instead of forcing an unsupported and false consensus on the definitive role of Academia in politics the book seeks to stimulate a robust debate and an enhanced re-exploration of the matter.


    1. Introduction: The Academy and Political Struggle in Uganda J. Oloka-Onyango
    2. The Role of Academia in the Democratization Process Benson Tusasirwe
    3. For whom doth the Academic bell really toll? Unpacking the engagement of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) in Uganda’s Democratization struggles Maria Nassali
    4. Intellectuals and the Fourth Estate: Analyzing the Coverage of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) in the Ugandan Media (1989-2020) Ivan Okuda
    5. Between Activism and “Hooliganism”: Civic Engagement and Democratic Struggles in Makerere University Students Guild Dan Ngabirano
    6. Juggling the Personal and the Political: The Case of Female Academics at Makerere University Sylvia Tamale
    7. Contending with the past and building for the future? The Paradoxical contribution of Makerere University School of Law to dictatorship and democratization in Uganda Busingye Kabumba
    8. Conclusion: The Political Economy of University Education: Revisiting democratic alternatives for Makerere and Uganda Frederick W. Jjuuko