Rare Honor for former Makerere University Head

John Otim
John Otim studied at Makerere, at Indiana, and Lougborough. Taught at Ahmadu Bello University, is the Editor of Nile Journal





Twice he was the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Twice he took over the leadership of the college at a time of great upheaval on campus and in the country at large. The first time was in the heyday of 1977 towards the chaotic end of the eight year rule of Dictator Idi Amin. The second time was in 1986 at the tumultus end of the second Uganda war.

Idi Amin and Journalist Amin

In 1977 inflation in Uganda was at all time high. Infrastructures were nonexistent. Years of colossal mismanagement saw to that. On campus the spirit had gone out of the battered college leaving behind only the shell of the once most glorious institution of higher learning to be had anywhere in Africa, south of the Sahara and outside of South Africa.

Prestigious Campus (credit Nyankori)

Throughout the country only one man remained smiling; the General himself, who was of course as of rights the Chancellor of Makerere University. In this scene so dire and so bleak, the new Vice Chancellor arrived and proceeded to act and behave as though everything was normal; when many academics were scrambling for subsistence.  Amidst the confusion and the desperation, following the embargo placed on Uganda by its neighbors, when no means of transportation could be had in the capital city of Kampala because the fuel pumps had dried, the impeccably dressed new Vice Chancellor could be seen trekking the three kilometers from campus to city center to conduct university business downtown.

University business included scourging for food stuff in the scarcity economy to supply the most basic needs of hundreds of his starving students and faculty. Kajubi’s coolness and his seemingly boundless energies inspired confidence. Slowly the famous college began to revive; although it would never again be its former self, where once Ali Mazrui held court, where at world famous Medical School of Mulago the likes of Professor German and Dr Amhed Karim were blazing new research trails.

Senteza Kajubi: boundless energies

When sadly Professor Kajubi passed away recently at his home near Kampala, following a stroke, the sense of loss that overtook the college and the city was real. Amidst the noise of giant cranes and delivery trucks extending their cramped quarters the Uganda Parliament assembled, and paid tributes and the government arranged for official burial, complete with a military brass band. He was eighty six.

After graduating from the then colonial college of Makerere where he had been with the likes of Milton Obote (first Uganda President), Abubakar Mayanja and Daudi Ocheing at the end of the 1940s the young Kajubi left for graduate school in America, where he studied geography at the University of Chicago. Kajubi was one of the first generation of East Africans to study in America, preceding Barack Obama Senior father of the American President, by at least 10 years. Among the subjects he taught and wrote about in his long academic career spanning over five decades, was the political economy of cash crop farming in Uganda. Well he might, Uganda was and still is overwhelmingly and an agricultural country.