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UGANDA: @MakerereU has now become the butt of all jokes due to Ruto fete

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Makerere University, Kampala. Photo/FILE NMG

Summary

By MAKAU MUTUA, DAILY NATION
The logical question to ask is why Makerere, a university, would name a highfalutin institute after a person whose doctorate is at the very least suspect?

Doesn’t academic integrity mean anything to Makerere? Makerere should’ve done due diligence before making a damn fool of itself.

Universities must only honour academic excellence, exemplary public service, or recognise alumni and philanthropists who have unselfishly given of themselves to school and society.

FULL STORY
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Last week, Makerere University went from being the oldest and most iconic institution of higher learning in East Africa to the butt of jokes. I couldn’t believe what I had just read. I did a double take just to make sure my eyes weren’t lying to me. Makerere had just broken ground to inaugurate the William Ruto Leadership Institute.

INFAMY
Mr Ruto, you will recall, is the infamous Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya. No Kenyan university – even the most craven and debased – has ever given Mr Ruto such a sterling honour. That’s for a good reason to which I shall return. Makerere’s academic harlotry is a scarlet letter that will be written in the sands of time.

First, there are ethical rules that govern the naming of academic buildings, programmes, and institutes for living – or dead – people.

Today isn’t the benighted 18th Century when universities were named after white men who enslaved Black Africans or imperialists like Cecil Rhodes. I still cringe there’s a university in Kenya named after Daniel arap Moi, the worst dictator in the country’s history. Universities must only honour academic excellence, exemplary public service, or recognise alumni and philanthropists who have unselfishly given of themselves to school and society.

Mr Ruto is the furthest thing from these indicia. His short biography is one of a chequered public career punctuated by infamy, calumny, and an ungoverned greed for political power.

ETHICS
Second, the reputations of those the universities are named after must speak to the ethics, morals and values of the highest order. A university isn’t a sewer that can be hawked to the highest bidder. Nor is it a pit latrine that cannot reject whatever is dumped in there. Universities are citadels of knowledge and truth. They epitomise humanity’s struggle to reach for the best in us, not to aspire to the worst of us. Even scandalous allegations, whether proven or not, must give a university pause before bestowing its name on an individual. That’s why it’s safer to name universities and monuments after dead people. It’s utterly bereft of common sense to name an institute after a controversial politician.

Third, let’s interrogate credible information in the public domain about Mr Ruto. Particularly relevant here are his academic credentials, or lack thereof, and his brushes with the law. Recently, Mr Ruto was reported to have been conferred a doctorate degree in some obscure subject at the University of Nairobi.

INTEGRITY
I have been an educator and academic for close to three decades in some of the finest universities in the world. I have supervised doctoral students. Mr Ruto may have the intellectual acumen to earn a doctorate, but he didn’t have the time for the rigour and the work required. A public calendar of his activities in the past five years makes his quest for a doctorate impossible. Which begs the question – is his doctorate fake? Methinks that Mr Ruto and his academic supervisors at the University of Nairobi have a lot of questions to answer. We need to see an audit of his programme of study to establish the authenticity, or lack thereof, of his doctorate. You will notice that I only address him as Mr Ruto, not Dr Ruto.

The logical question to ask is why Makerere, a university, would name a highfalutin institute after a person whose doctorate is at the very least suspect? Doesn’t academic integrity mean anything to Makerere? Makerere should’ve done due diligence before making a damn fool of itself.

SABOTAGE
Fourth, there’s the matter of Mr Ruto’s familiarity with the local and international justice systems. Public records show that he was found liable for grabbing the land of a private citizen in Eldoret. The court ordered him to restore the plaintiff to status quo ante. Nor can we forget Mr Ruto’s leadership of the notorious Youth for Kanu ’92, a violent government-sponsored group reported to have been responsible for ethnic violence against the Kikuyu in the Rift Valley.

Then of course Mr Ruto was infamously indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the 2007-08 election violence. His case was only withdrawn because witnesses were intimidated, eliminated, and because of State sabotage of the case.

That’s not all. Mr Ruto vigorously opposed Kenya’s democratic march as a Kanu mandarin and tried to torpedo the 2010 Constitution. He’s been at the forefront of the so-called “tithing” in churches where he donates obscene amounts of cash whose source is unknown. He’s mentioned in many corruption scandals. Is this the person that Makerere should name an institute of leadership for?

REJECT
To make matters worse, the institute will be built on land already allocated for President Kibaki’s Presidential Library. Makerere’s illustrious community should reject Mr Ruto’s institute pronto.

The author Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: December 29, 2019 at 01:11PM

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