Students at Makerere University are casting doubt on the effectiveness of the new campus security system. Everyone entering the University is subjected to body and bag check. Following the Nairobi Westgate Mall terrorist attack in September, 2013, Uganda stepped up security in all public places around the capital Kampala and in major towns across the country.
At the beginning of December, Makerere University increased its security in order to avert possible terror attacks. Since then, Police together with private University security officers, are stationed on all entrances of the University to check both people and vehicles before they are allowed into the University.
However, the way checking is carried out has left many students questioning the effectiveness of these checks given evidence of many loopholes.
Inconsistent approach to security
According to Elizabeth, a third year Computer Engineering student, there is a lot of inconsistencies in the way security officers carry out these checks – which may give wrong doers a chance to effect their goals. The 24 year old student says, “They check only during day and at night they do not check, even when I come in a vehicle they do not check my bag, so that inconsistency leaves so many gaps.”
Florence Namasinga, an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Communication, shares the same view.
“Well I appreciate that it ensures security for people at campus but it irritating, people check and sometimes they ask for identity card that they need to verify that you are a student, what is that? It is wastage of time. If it is security that is not the only way through which someone can enter campus. The University is not fenced so it is not secure anyway,” says Florence.
(Click to listen to full audio of the interview with Florence Namasinga)
University faces threat of attack
Police on the other hand insist that they are doing a good job with the main aim of protecting both local and international students at the University. Antony Oboth, a Police officer attached to Makerere University, explains that the beef up in security came after several threats to attack places which have many people and therefore University security could not take any chances.
In October this year Police arrested a student of Kampala International University for putting a social media message threatening terror attack on one of busy shopping centers in Kampala. He was later released after realizing it was a hoax.
Not all bad
While some students feel that checking is an inconvenience, there are those who think that it is good and it makes them feel secure in a world full of terror threats. A group of three Mass Communication students that we came across have different views over the new security measures at the University.
Whereas Ruth and Doreen are both positive about checking, saying it screens out non students who could be behind loss of students items such as laptops, bags and mobile phones, Sandra on the other hand thinks it’s an inconvenience to her and a wastage of time.
(Click to listen to the full audio of the vox pop of the students)
While security is paramount for all people in the University, just presence of security personnel is not enough; there is need for University authorities to close all gaps in security at the University to ensure effective security of students in the University.
Authors: David Mulindwa Mukasa and Alex Esagala Photos by: David Mulindwa Mukasa