On 15th March, 2013, Makerere University held the second Memorial Lecture for former Bank of Uganda Secretary, Dr Joshua Baitwa Mugyenyi. Uganda’s Minister for Water and Environment, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, also long-time friend of Dr Mugyenyi delivered the second lecture, reliving their experiences at Ntare School and Makerere University. Dr Mugyenyi, who served as a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration in the 80s, passed on in 2002.
Presenting a paper entitled; “A Living Monument of a Patriotic and Intellectual Mind”, Prof. Kamuntu, narrated how Ntare School imparted skills as well as critical intellectual thinking amongst its students. “The School promoted a mindset and positive attitude towards life that shaped Dr Mugyenyi with the capacity to understand big issues of the day,” he noted.
Prof. Kamuntu said Dr Mugyenyi left a mark of monumental achievement at Makerere University. “He was an excellent student and actively participated and shaped to a large extent Makerere’s programmes. He was the Vice-President of the Students’ Guild, with Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o as President and Daudi Taliwaku, the Minister of External Relations. The trio and their Students Guild Government left a monumental mark on Makerere University. This translated to a monumental impact on University students’ government leadership in Africa,” Prof. Kamuntu explained.
Dr Mugyenyi, Hon Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o and Daudi Taliwaku were the trio of the Students Guild Executive of 1969/70 who conceived the Makerere Africa Lecture Series in the main hall, which drew in several academics and politicians of the time.
The debates, mostly about African politics, later died out in the 1970s as political strife took hold in Uganda and academics fled into exile. However, Makerere recently re-launched the Africa Lecture Series and invited Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o to deliver the first one in December 2011, in which he discussed the consequences of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere’s efforts at women emancipation in Africa.
Prof. Kamuntu noted that Dr Mugyenyi had a clear vision “of the future Uganda” and that if he was alive today, he would be raising critical questions about the future of Uganda. “I know there are enduring questions Joshua would have posed, and is till posing to us today: questions about the politics and future of Uganda; about education, especially higher education in Uganda with his special focus on Makerere University, his beloved alma mater; and about the youth unemployment and patriotism in Uganda today.
Citing remarks by Dr Pamela Mbabazi, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Prof. Kamuntu noted that Dr Mugyenyi loved education, especially higher education. According to Dr Mbabazi, Dr Mugyenyi’s vision led to a report on the establishment of the Faculty of Development Studies at MUST, the largest faculty at the institution now being re-organized as a post graduate research think-tank.
Prof. Kamuntu however noted that despite the many questions the fallen academician would be posing, he would be satisfied with the Government’s view of Higher Education as reflected in the National Development Plan.
The key discussant of the lecture, Mr. Aaron Mukwaya, praised Dr Mugyenyi as his best lecturer, noting that his classes were interactive. “Dr Mugyenyi believed that if you wanted to understand anything, you needed to be theoretical. He was a simple man and only talked when he had a point to make,” he said.
Mr. Mukwaya said Dr Mugyenyi was a Pan Africanist who analysed the problems of Uganda in a wider context. He further explained that Dr Mugyenyi believed in education from pre-nursery with strong insights that corruption and ethnicity cannot allow education to prevail.
Commenting on Dr Mugyenyi, the Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera, said it was the fundamental depth of the latter’s intellectualism that made him so persuasive in whatever he said. He noted with dismay that “our intellectualism has become shallow”. “We need to go back to those times when it was important to know. We should avoid shortcuts to knowledge,” he advised.
Former Ugandan Member of Parliament for Nyabushozi County in Kiruhura District, also wife to Dr Mugyenyi, Mrs Mary Mugyenyi, expressed gratitude to the Department of Political Science and Public Administration for hosting the lecture, noting that the Dr Joshua Mugyenyi Memorial lectures had finally found a home. The Head of the Department, Dr S.K. Simba, informed the audience that they resolved to hold memorial lectures for all their fallen colleagues.
The event was crowned with a donation of UGX10,000,000 from the Joshua Mugyenyi Foundation as scholarship for bright but disadvantaged girls at Makerere University.