KIGALI - The row between Kigali based Université Adventiste d’Afrique Centrale (UAAC) and Université Laïque Adventist de Kigali (Unilak) over the word ‘Adventist’ has deepened with the latter boycotting a meeting aimed at resolving the impasse.
Early this year, the UAAC rector, Dr. Jozsef Szilvasi, petitioned the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to block Unilak from using the word ‘Adventist’ as part of its name.
NCHE is an independent agency set up to advice the State on the strategic planning of higher education and to make sure that higher education in the country is of high quality and meets international standards.
“Unilak management boycotted the first meeting and we are trying to arrange another one to resolve the issue,” NCHE Executive Director, Prof. Pamela Abbott said on Monday.
A source from NCHE said on Friday that the meeting took place without Unilak last month at the Council’s office.
“Unilak management wrote to NCHE saying it was only the founders of the universities who could attend such meetings,” the source said. The meeting was attended by UAAC regional representatives based in Nairobi, Kenya.
The letter, dated December 17, 2007, was also copied to Education, Justice Ministers, the President of the East and Central Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventists and Rector of Unilak, Dr. Jean Ngamije among others.
In the letter addressed to NCHE Executive Director, UAAC management explained that the name ‘Adventist’ was a registered trademark for institutions owned and run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Only those listed in the Church’s Year-book of its denomination are allowed to use the word.
According to Dr. Szilvasi, Unilak is not on the list.
He said the petition came after consulting the East and Central Africa Division and the Rwanda Union Mission of the Seventh-day Church over the matter.
“Using the word ‘Adventist’, Unilak creates confusion to the public and the authorities who often confound the University with the Adventist University of Central Africa,” the letter states.
The UAAC rector accuses Unilak of creating an impression that the campus offers the same programs and education curriculum as the Adventist University of Central Africa.
“By doing this, Unilak is misguiding the public and damaging the reputation of Seventh-day Adventist education in general and the Adventist University of Central Africa in particular,” Dr. Szilvasi complained in the letter.
He added that while Unilak’s curriculum may be similar, the quality and the level of service may be far from that offered by a genuine member of the Adventist education system.
The standoff was forwarded to Justice Minister and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama for legal opinion.
Karugarama told The Sunday Times on Monday that he referred the matter to both the Education ministry and NCHE. The Education minister could not be reached for comment.
In his rebuttal letter dated December 19, 2007 to the NCHE boss, Unilak Rector, Dr. Jean Ngamije demanded that UAAC management withdraws its baseless allegations.
In the letter, Dr. Ngamije told NCHE that the name of Unilak was lawfully acquired by the institution which was recognised by the government in the Convention No. 001 of February 3, 1997.