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Makerere University fined Shs 100m over Prof Barya contract

Prof Jean Barya

Prof Jean Barya

Makerere University staff appeals tribunal has overturned a decision by the university’s appointments board to deny law Prof John Jean Barya, a post-retirement contract.

The tribunal, chaired by the newly appointed chairperson, Dr Henry Onoria also awarded Barya Shs 100 million in general damages and directed the board to reconsider the decision which was considered unjust. The ruling follows Barya's successful appeal against a 2021 decision, which declined his application for a post-retirement contract submitted in 2020 after serving 30 years as a lecturer at the School of Law.

Barya applied for a post-retirement contract on January 28, 2020, before reaching retirement age on May 15, 2020. While awaiting a decision on his application, he continued his work in the department of public and comparative law. He wrote to the director of human resources on September 14, 2020, seeking an update on his application, after receiving no response.

But on December 15, 2020, the director of human resources informed him that the vice chancellor could not recommend his post-retirement contract on grounds of having no teaching load and not being engaged in research. On January 11, 2021, he wrote to the appointments board about his application for the post-retirement contract, and in response, the board declined to offer him a contract. 

However, Barya requested the tribunal to overturn the appointments board's decision, order the university to pay the salary he would have earned if his post-retirement contract was approved, and compensate him for the damages incurred throughout the process. 

In its decision, the tribunal found that at the time the appointments board queried Barya's workload, there was no evidence in terms of a teaching timetable explaining how the professor was teaching. The tribunal therefore found that the appointments board did not properly evaluate evidence before it, and did not reach a fair decision.

Speaking to URN after the verdict, Barya said that the vice chancellor's actions were unjust. He argued that the purported reason for denying him the contract was a mere pretext but the real reason for the appointments board’s decision was his continued involvement in advocating for better terms and conditions for Makerere University teaching staff.

He added that the ruling will set a precedence that the vice chancellor and management have no powers to change the decisions of any academic unit, and will also teach them to follow the law. While he served as a lecturer at the Law School, Barya was always very vocal not only on issues affecting Makerere University's academic staff but also national issues.

He regularly organized and participated in public seminars and dialogues in which he advocated for better working terms for the university staff and democracy and accountability in the country. In the process, he courted resentment not only among administrators of Makerere University but also among the political class in the country.

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