Expelled law students take UCU to court

Yasin-Sentumbwe-Munagomba-L-and-Simon-Semuwemba-during-the-interview
Yasin Sentumbwe and Simon Semuwemba (Courtesy photo)

BY ARTHUR MATSIKO

Two students of Uganda Christian University (UCU) who were expelled for participating in a demonstration against increments in fees on April 20 have resorted to court.

According to the letters of expulsion obtained by The Standard, Yasin Sentumbwe Munagomba and Simon Semuwemba were expelled for, among other reasons, having behaved in a manner that damaged the good name of the university by participating in a demonstration without informing the Vice Chancellor (VC) in advance. This was contrary to regulations 6(v) and 8 (ii) of the Code of Conduct handbook, 2015 – 2016. Regulation 6(v) stipulates that no student shall utter words or leave in a manner, which may damage the good name and image of the university; whereas 8(ii) demands that any public protest or demonstration on university premises may be conducted only after the vice chancellor has been informed one day in advance and no demonstration or protest may be held without his approval obtained and police permission granted.

Semuwemba was also accused of using abusive language against the VC when he reportedly uttered: “You Senyonyi, first put off your arrogance and address us”, in front of the Principal’s Hall on the day of the demonstration. This, according to the letter, is contrary to regulation 6(i) of the code of conduct which states: “Any students found publicly blaspheming; swearing, cursing, or using abusive languages or signs shall be guilty of an offense”.

Sentumbwe was expelled for, among other reasons, denying involvement in the demonstration despite the available evidence.

“You were also found to have been guilty of insubordination and being disrespectful to members when you refused to obey legitimate instructions of the committee to undergo a security check …” thus violating regulations 6(v) and 8(v) of the code of conduct, the letter further read.

The students were expelled through a students’ disciplinary committee, which sat on May 5 and 16 respectively.

Through the Centre for Legal Aid, the two students of Bachelor of Laws have petitioned court seeking to quash the expulsion and all yearly publications of UCU’s code of conduct handbook or rules 6(v), 8(iii), 8(v), and 8(vi) of the code of conduct 2015 – 2016 in particular.

In the Notice of Motion from Jinja High Court served on the respondent (UCU) and received on May 25, the duo state that they were “prematurely, arbitrarily, unlawfully, unjustly, unfairly and irrationally expelled by the respondent allegedly for violating its Code of Conduct”. They further state that the impugned Code of Conduct is non-existent and unenforceable because it was not gazetted as required by law.

According to the notice of motion signed by Deputy Registrar of Jinja High Court, UCU is required to appear before court onJune 29, 2016, at 9:00am. The University Legal Officer, Mr John Toa Bahemuka said that UCU will file an affidavit in reply to the notice of motion before the date of hearing.

“We have already placed it (notice of motion) in the hands of our external lawyers (A.F Mpanga Advocates) to prepare and file the reply,” Bahemuka said. “They will be provided with facts.”

Two other students were suspended for one academic year by the students’ disciplinary committee. Joshua Ziraba, a third-year student of Bachelor of Public Administration and Management and Morris Twinamatsiko, a student of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering were suspended for participating in the demonstration.

Ziraba was found, by the committee, to have incited students to boycott the September 2016 guild elections on the students WhatsApp page contrary to regulations 6(v) and 8(v) of the code of conduct handbook 2015 – 2016.

Twinamatsiko was suspended for, among other reasons, spreading false and rebellious information about the university when he alleged that students continuously pay for identity cards under ‘other fees’. This was contrary to regulations 6(ii) and 8(v) of the code of conduct handbook. The duo is expected to return in May 2017.

Although the expelled students have sought remedy through the courts of law, Ziraba, according to the legal officer, has written a letter of appeal to the VC requesting for pardon or “lighter sentence” and his appeal “is being considered”.

Further, three students who were found guilty of participating in the “unlawful demonstration” have been cautioned and warned never to indulge in such practices again. They include guild president Pius Nyikirize, class representatives’ president Julius Mugabi; and Moses Ssenyonyi, general secretary to the students’ guild.

The Standard, however, noticed that all letters of expulsion, suspension and caution are dated April 19, a day before the said demonstration was held; but the students’ disciplinary committee, which passed the resolutions, sat on May 5 and 16.Two students of Uganda Christian University (UCU) who were expelled for participating in a demonstration against increments in fees on April 20 have resorted to court.

According to the letters of expulsion obtained by The Standard, Yasin Sentumbwe Munagomba and Simon Semuwemba were expelled for, among other reasons, having behaved in a manner that damaged the good name of the university by participating in a demonstration without informing the Vice Chancellor (VC) in advance.

This was contrary to regulations 6(v) and 8 (ii) of the Code of Conduct handbook, 2015 – 2016. Regulation 6(v) stipulates that no student shall utter words or leave in a manner, which may damage the good name and image of the university; whereas 8(ii) demands that any public protest or demonstration on university premises may be conducted only after the vice chancellor has been informed one day in advance and no demonstration or protest may be held without his approval obtained and police permission granted.

Semuwemba was also accused of using abusive language against the VC when he reportedly uttered: “You Senyonyi, first put off your arrogance and address us”, in front of the Principal’s Hall on the day of the demonstration. This, according to the letter, is contrary to regulation 6(i) of the code of conduct which states: “Any students found publicly blaspheming; swearing, cursing, or using abusive languages or signs shall be guilty of an offense”.

Sentumbwe was expelled for, among other reasons, denying involvement in the demonstration despite the available evidence.

“You were also found to have been guilty of insubordination and being disrespectful to members when you refused to obey legitimate instructions of the committee to undergo a security check …” thus violating regulations 6(v) and 8(v) of the code of conduct, the letter further read.

The students were expelled through a students’ disciplinary committee, which sat on May 5 and 16 respectively.

Through the Centre for Legal Aid, the two students of Bachelor of Laws have petitioned court seeking to quash the expulsion and all yearly publications of UCU’s code of conduct handbook or rules 6(v), 8(iii), 8(v), and 8(vi) of the code of conduct 2015 – 2016 in particular.

In the Notice of Motion from Jinja High Court served on the respondent (UCU) and received on May 25, the duo state that they were “prematurely, arbitrarily, unlawfully, unjustly, unfairly and irrationally expelled by the respondent allegedly for violating its Code of Conduct”. They further state that the impugned Code of Conduct is non-existent and unenforceable because it was not gazetted as required by law.

According to the notice of motion signed by Deputy Registrar of Jinja High Court, UCU is required to appear before court onJune 29, 2016, at 9:00am. The University Legal Officer, Mr John Toa Bahemuka said that UCU will file an affidavit in reply to the notice of motion before the date of hearing.

“We have already placed it (notice of motion) in the hands of our external lawyers (A.F Mpanga Advocates) to prepare and file the reply,” Bahemuka said. “They will be provided with facts.”

Two other students were suspended for one academic year by the students’ disciplinary committee. Joshua Ziraba, a third-year student of Bachelor of Public Administration and Management and Morris Twinamatsiko, a student of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering were suspended for participating in the demonstration.

Ziraba was found, by the committee, to have incited students to boycott the September 2016 guild elections on the students WhatsApp page contrary to regulations 6(v) and 8(v) of the code of conduct handbook 2015 – 2016.

Twinamatsiko was suspended for, among other reasons, spreading false and rebellious information about the university when he alleged that students continuously pay for identity cards under ‘other fees’. This was contrary to regulations 6(ii) and 8(v) of the code of conduct handbook. The duo is expected to return in May 2017.

Although the expelled students have sought remedy through the courts of law, Ziraba, according to the legal officer, has written a letter of appeal to the VC requesting for pardon or “lighter sentence” and his appeal “is being considered”.

Further, three students who were found guilty of participating in the “unlawful demonstration” have been cautioned and warned never to indulge in such practices again. They include guild president Pius Nyikirize, class representatives’ president Julius Mugabi; and Moses Ssenyonyi, general secretary to the students’ guild.

The Standard, however, noticed that all letters of expulsion, suspension and caution are dated April 19, a day before the said demonstration was held; but the students’ disciplinary committee, which passed the resolutions, sat on May 5 and 16.

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