I have never encountered a salacious story that instead of wetting the appetite of readers sends them into shock. Such is the Prof. Venacious Baryamureeba rape story that has been in the news for the past one week. Why it took that long in the news pages despite its glaring loopholes baffles me even more. But again, nothing baffles in Uganda anymore.
When the story broke, my first instinct was to see Prof. Barya [ as he is fondly called by his peers] and direct my verbal artillery—the only one I own—at him calling him a disgrace to the academic world leave alone the mighty Makerere University.
But when I recollected my investigative instinct, I opted to watch the coverage of the story by our mighty media houses which are sometimes worse than the NRM party in decision making. Let me not dwell on the media lest I find myself jobless for freedom of expression of thought and opinion, these days, is only stated not practiced; someone bigger [ read in big position] than you must first be happy with what you say.
I was wrong to first of all imagine that Prof. Barya had disgraced Makerere University. Makerere has disgraced itself enough. In fact the absence of scandals makes Makerere University’s learned people uncomfortable that they must always think of how to create some salacious news just for the institution to be in the news. Seriously though, it’s a sign of collapse of this country called Uganda. The jungle law which was presumed to be a preserve of the primitive political class is what reigns even in academic institutions like Makerere. It’s the law in the so called corporate world. Sex, intrigue, malice and fitina [jealousy] defines life in the corporate world.
At Makerere, Prof. Barya could have underestimated the power of intellectuals who have suffered the economic fantasies. He could have underestimated the power of people who have failed to attain self-actualization. He should have learnt that you can manage one jealous person but when they are in numbers, their power is enormous.
So, when he sauntered into such an institution as young man in his early forties, Prof. Barya appears to have forgotten than envy is only human and that one of the most important things a leader must prepare to deal with is human envy.
One day, Barya is in a Mercedes benz. Another, he is in a Land cruiser. Most evenings he is either in Serena or Sheraton. By the way, not on Makerere University cost but personal. The young man had achieved a lot in a short time. A lot without theft! That is what I admire about it. But his colleagues are battered by daily city nightmares. It’s only human that some of them have to become envious. The sad commentary is that the envious group has abdicated their responsibility to keep Makerere as a centre of knowledge.
They have turned the Ivory Tower into any other institution in Uganda where there are no rules of the game. Shame! Shame! Pettiness!
So, one mid-morning last week, I enter into an office of a senior bureaucrat. I find there a Makerere University Don. The guy does not recognize who I am. The owner of the office does not alert him. I hear the lecturer roar: “You people should support us to get him out of Makerere. He is the image of the university because he is Vice chancellor.
“I am going to ask the alumni and other people to start writing in newspapers that the he should leave office as investigations continue.
“ I will try to convince some members of Muasa to demand that we discuss it in our meeting tomorrow.”
Then the owner of the office finally breaks the news. “Mr…. let us talk later. We shall try to see how NIC pays the lecturers their money.”
The lecturer retorts: “That is Ok sir but I beg your support to get this man out; he is a disgrace.”
“Ok ...Ok... let me attend to the journalist,” said the officer. “Eh! I hope this man does not misrepresent us; these journalists are unethical these days,” the lecturer said.
Clearly, if a senior lecturer at Makerere University where we at least expect fairness or at least a pretense of it, campaigns to throw out his colleagues without even allowing due process, what do we still expect in this country?
It’s a pity that Makerere University is no longer a place for academic freedom. It’s no longer a factory of knowledge neither is it national pride. It’s a place for chasing personal interests. Several Masters and PhD students are made to suffer to graduate just because a lecturer feels unhappy that someone else is trying to become better. Many people are by the way scared of doing further studies in this institution because of the uncertainty of completing studies without someone witch-hunting you on purely personal grounds.
The real point I learnt from the Prof. Barya rape story is that the young successful academic was supposed to be raped by political forces in Makerere but he escaped the rape after his would be rapists chose Tracy Ninsiima to orchestrate the rape. I also learnt that Uganda is headed to more trying times because a culture of persecuting economically successful people is now entrenched.
Because Barya is in acting capacity, someone must bring him down. Because you can’t use performance as a reason; you must concoct a rape case!
Of course Prof. Barya is free fellow who reportedly loves to vibe a beautiful girl. Most men with money do. But to say he raped Ninsiima means that this lady is financially superior that she needs nothing from the Professor. But I am told she begs lifts. Without demeaning women, where does Ninsiima get the power to ignore the sexual advances of a young rich Professor? Knowing our Kampala women today, they can fall over each other just to shake such a man’s hand.
And to be used as a pawn in a Makerere University game makes Ninsiima’s a burden unto herself. I was shocked to read her saying: “I will bring him down.” She didn’t say she needed justice to be done.
Bringing down Barya, a man who rose from nonentity into a global entity on merit gives me sleepless nights. How many young men can toil as orphans today and rise into becoming Professors? In the days when Uganda was a meritocracy, that was possible. In the days of UPE and patronage, that is a distant dream. If only to stay as a symbol of personal struggle, I would ask Barya’s rapists to leave the young man alone. He has beaten the odds in society to become what he is. One randy woman should not be used to undermine this story of humble beginnings. And let us all not get consumed by envy. Some brains should stay sober especially in universities. To sack Barya would require sacking all those others who give marks for sex. Wow! It would call for closing of Makerere University!