Uganda Christian University (UCU) will next semester hold a special council meeting to, among others, issues discuss its relationship with Ankole Western Institute of Science and Technology, (AWIST).
The meeting follows reports that UCU had broken its ties with AWIST, based at Kabwohe in Sheema district. The two institutions were caught up in the controversies surrounding Bishop Yona Katoneene of West Ankole diocese.
Bishop Katoneene, who is the institute’s chancellor, has been at the heart of a crisis since May last year, when opinion leaders in Sheema accused him of plotting to transfer the institute to Bushenyi district – pitting Sheema against the diocese.
According to UCU’s statement, the decision to part ways would not affect continuing students, but AWIST would be barred from recruiting new students on behalf of UCU, later this year.
However, in responding to the reports, AWIST principal Dr Edidah Mujinya said they were still affiliated to UCU.
Mujinya, a priest in the Anglican Church, said although UCU had written to them ending the partnership, the matter was not concluded.
“It’s true we received a letter notifying us about the termination of the partnership but we did not receive a copy detailing why it was being suspended abruptly, but the continuing students will not be affected and this means we are still partners as per the MoU we signed,” Mujinya said.
She later added that the two institutions were still in dialogue to resolve the matter.
“We are already in talks with UCU and we hope all will be well soon but we just need a short time to agree on particular things,” Mujinya explained.
Dr Mujinya declined to explain the root of the crisis, but refuted reports that there were disagreements over Christian worship. “We don’t have details yet why the UCU wrote to us suspending the programmes but like I said talks are underway and the rest is mere speculation.”
However, she hang up and later switched off her cell phone, when asked to explain the disagreements among Sheema Christians about opening up branches and ownership of the land, where the university sits, as well as plans to relocate to Mitooma.
One of the lecture blocks of AWIST
When contacted, UCU vice chancellor Dr John Senyonyi said the matter had been blown out of proportion.
Dr Senyonyi blamed AWIST for passing the matter on to the media without consulting UCU.
“I’m afraid that this matter is yet to get to the University Council and what is being put out is coming from AWIST. They should have contacted us first,” Senyonyi said.
He was also at pains to assure UCU students at AWIST.
“I can say that our commitment is to students first. Therefore, as a bottom line, we cannot abandon those students already registered with us at AWIST,” Dr Senyonyi explained.
However, he also declined to give details and the root cause of the suspension of the partnership.
“Please allow me to comment after the matter has appeared before the University Council.”
AWIST was founded in 2005 after a resolution by the Anglican mission to start a tertiary institution of learning in West Ankole. AWIST is affiliated to UCU under the supervision of Kabale-based Bishop Barham university College, also a constituent college of UCU.
According to the 2002 Anglican mission resolution, AWIST was to be developed into a fully-fledged university in Kabwohe with the name Ankole Western University.
However, trouble at AWIST started in March 2013 when the then principal, Prof Emmanuel Karooro, asked the Bishop Katoneene to allow AWIST to conduct teaching at the diocesan buildings at Katungu, a few kilometers away from Kabwohe.
But the National Council of Higher Education reportedly intervened and restrained the creation of campuses before the institute has attained a university status.
Later in May 2014, there were reports that Bishop Katoneene wanted the institute relocated to Mitooma. This prompted some vicious mudslinging that attracted President Museveni’s intervention. The president reportedly asked AWIST and diocesan leaders, reportedly ordered for an external audit into the funds of the diocese in January.
Museveni is the patron of the Ankole Western University Founders Forum.
The institute, seated on 52 acres of church land, about 300km away from the capital Kampala, has a population of over 1,200 students.
Source : The Observer