Below; Deputy Vice Chancellor of Gulu University, Professor George Openjuru-Ladaah, one of the four candidates in line to succeed retiring Professor Jack Nyeko Pen Mogi addressing the media after the interview recently. Will he make change?
“A major development like this cannot be done without land. You cannot build a house in the air”
“He is just corrupt and incompetent. Why do you want more land when you have failed to utilize the one provided for you? Let him utilize the 92 hectares we gave them first and we shall give more land. If he can’t, we hope the one who will succeed him will get more of the forest land”
GULU-UGANDA: In June 2001, Uganda government set up a task-force which was headed by former legislator from Acholi, Professor Jack Nyeko Pen Mogi, with the aim of establishing an Agricultural and Environmental public university in Gulu Municipality, northern Uganda.
The Gulu University opened its doors to students a year later, in 2002, at the then Gulu District Farm Institute, pending getting its own land around the Farm Institute, with the same Professor as its founding Vice Chancellor.
According to Prof. Pen Mogi, the new university drew up a Master Plan for infrastructural development and accordingly he put forward a request to local authorities for 742 hectares of land around the temporary site. This is a densely populated area.
Fifteen years down the road, the University has not been able to get the kind of land it wanted because, in the professor’s own words, the leadership in Gulu “came with negative political messages”, which has affected the vision of the university.
“A major development like this cannot be done without land. You cannot build a house in the air”, he says on Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, adding, “I appeal to the Acholi Community to leave the land and government compensates them”.
Professor Pen Mogi, who admits he is media shy, was addressing members of the press from his boardroom on the revised number of hectare the university wants around the Farm Institute from 742 to just 315 hectares of land.
“The new district chairman, Mr. Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, has been helping us since he became the chairman of Gulu. However, his problem, like mine, was caused by previous leadership when one of them stated in a public forum that modern universities do not need 742 hectares of land. Others even said they will campaign hard to make sure that the university doesn’t get the land it wants. These kinds of remarks are historical poisons. We are disappointed by our leaders and they are the source of our frustrations”, says Pen Mogi.
Pen Mogi accused local leaders of politicking over the university land, saying some of them allege that he wants such swatch of land for President Yoweri Museveni. He says if leaders don’t give land to the university in Gulu Municipality in the next three months, then he will be forced to transfer some university courses like Chemical Engineering and Tourism & Hospitality to Nwoya district, where the university have been donated some large swaths of land.
He revealed that the university has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an Italian company, FESTO C.T.E, a scientific company, to construct a $146 million facility for the two new programs on a loan payable in fifteen years.
“Going to Nwoya is not what we had wanted but we cannot just sit to wait how we shall move. We shall wait for two or three months for their responses. If they don’t respond, we shall be forced move to Nwoya”, says Pen Mogi, whose three-year-term expires at the end of 2017.
However, according to the Mayor of Gulu Municipality, Mr. George Labeja, who says the blame for the university not getting land rests squarely in the hands of the Vice Chancellor.
He reveals that the Municipal Council requested National Forest Authority (NFA) to de-gazette part of the forest land within the Municipality and give it to the University, but Professor Pen Mogi failed to utilize the 92 hectares of land given to the university in 2012. He says instead of building university structures to international standards, the university administration decided to lease out part of the 92 hectares to a private developer who constructed a flat for accommodations.
“He is just corrupt and incompetent. Why do you want more land when you have failed to utilize the one given to you? Let him utilize the 92 hectares we gave them and we shall give more land. If he can’t we hope the one who will succeed him will get more of the forest land”, says the Mayor.
Meanwhile four candidates have been selected to compete for the position of the University Vice Chancellor, which falls vacant at the end of 2017. Those selected include the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor George Openjuru Ladaah, Professor Byaruhanga Rukooka, Professor Paul Wako and Professor Joseph Obua.
According to the University Deputy Public Relation Officer, Mr. Mahmud Khelil, the programs/courses at the University include Medicine, Agriculture & Environment, Law, Science Education, Humanities, Business Development, Peace & Strategic Studies, among others. Graduates of Medicine and Agriculture &Environment compete very favorably with other public universities in the job market while Peace & Strategic Studies program attracts the least number of students.
Mr. Genesis Acaye (30), graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 2011 and a Master of Science in Applied Tropical Entomology & Parasitological Science in 2017.
He says the biggest challenges he faced while at University includes inadequate practical facilities and laboratories, lack of funding opportunities for research and innovation and lack of hands on skill experience.
Mr. Acaye, who works as an Agricultural Extension worker with an NGO, says he wants to go for further studies and to do more Research and Innovation so as to “solve the challenges that are facing the Agricultural sector in Uganda”. His wife, Sarah Amarorwot (24), who graduated with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Education majoring English and Literature in English, also wants to go for further studies and write novels.