On Sunday morning, an unprecendented tragic fire reduced Makerere University’s landmark building to rubble and left several important archives and documents reduced to ashes. The Makerere Main building which was completed in 1941 under the leadership of colonial leader, George Tunwell has been a UNESCO heritage site lauded for its 20th British architectural design.
SEE ALSO: JUST IN: Makerere main building on fire
Under the watch of the leadership of Prof. Nawangwe as the Vice Chancellor, the main building has been burnt beyond recognition leaving majority of stakeholders including students, parents and alumni in total dismay and shock as they decried what had befell the nation’s beautiful pillar of academic history.
In the morning at exactly 07:00 hours, our reporter Opio Daniel tried to access the university premises though security had been deployed to deter members of the public from any access. “I was asked to identify myself and when I did so as a journalist by presenting my work card, they still denied me access,” retorts Opio. “One policeman asked me to wait until the president or Education Minister, Janet Kataaha Museveni completes her assessments and then maybe I be granted access in the evening or the next day,” he adds.
However, this did not kill our hope to establish what could have gone wrong at Uganda’s oldest institution of higher learning. Our reporter managed to liaise with a freelance photojournalist who was luckily available on the scene. He reveals a span of conspiracy theories surrounding the cause of this unprecedented fire. He says, the main building has been a battlefield of Makerere administrators with most office holders tussling it out with one another over various money deals that come along in form of grants. He says, the office of Finance and Accounts has been under a parliamentary watch which was instituted last week to probe into the missing UGX 8 billion that was lost to a deal between the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nawangwe and the NIC. “Emphasis must be laid on why the fire sprang from the office of the accounts and Finance. Something does not add up. It appears a coordinated fire and not coincidental as widely thought,” reveals our source. “The Main building has conflicting forces. In fact, they dealt away with the late Prof. Abel Rwendeire who was investigating a money laundering scam and ghost students in November 2016. He died mysteriously. Here people use witchcraft, poison and the likes to finish their rivals,” he adds.
Our ground source further reveals that from his interactions with the local community, it was established that the university bursar has been routinely leaving office at 11:00pm or 00:00hrs contrary to the covid prohibitions that imposed a curfew. “He has been leaving office very late for the past two weeks. Sometimes at 11pm and midnight,” says our reporter from his findings. “It is unclear if even on this ill-fated night, he left at that hour. We are yet to ascertain,” he adds. The fire brigade also arrived just 30 minutes after the spark but it failed to constrain the fires. In fact, the flames died off 8 hours later at 10am, something that left the public in total shock.
The Makerere University students guild president, Julius Kateregga says his heart remains shattered and broken down to pieces after witnessing that tragic incident in his tenure. “I didn’t sleep the entire night. I walked my way into the university at 05:00hrs to witness what was happening. It is too sad. We have lost a signature building which is part of our history,” he emotionally said. “We don’t know if we shall ever have something similar to what we just lost. It will be very hard,” he adds.
The first lady however says this fire should be a wake up call to Ugandans to polish up their morals. In her controversial social media post, she said they will renovate the Ivory Tower as soon as they can but the fire should teach Ugandans a span of lessons to do with self conduct! The Vice Chancellor too says an immediate renovation is what they are all looking to and he maintains that the destroyed records are safely digitally backed up.
It should be noted that in Japan when the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe realised he had been overwhelmed by the covid health emergency, he tendered in his resignation. Similarly in Lebanon when Beirut was ravaged by a deadly blast, the entire government tendered its resignation. It is not clear whether the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and the Education Minister, Janet Kataaha will in good faith pen down their resignations too.
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