Photo: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Photo: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas - Photo: 2020

Historic Uganda University Devastated by Overnight Blaze

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – “It is a very dark morning for Makerere University. Our iconic Main Administration Building caught fire and the destruction is unbelievable. But we are determined to restore the building to its historic state in the shortest time possible.”

Those were the words of Makerere’s Vice-Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe as fire officials struggled to extinguish the last embers of a huge fire that appear to have started in the upstairs public relations office of the Main building – also known as the Ivory Tower, spreading to floors below that house the finance and records department. Buildings that housed the classrooms were not damaged, witnesses said.

Huge cracks could be seen on some of the outer walls, most of the roof was burnt off and many of the windows are completely burnt out, an eyewitness said.

The University’s Facebook page and Twitter handle – @MakerereU – started posting videos of the fire shortly after 1 a.m.

Fire officers fought the huge fire from around midnight, the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire reported from Kampala.

“The building holds student records, and the basement is full of archive files spanning the whole history of the institution,” East African historian Derek Peterson tweeted, adding that he had been intending to help organize a project to catalogue the collection.

Makerere was first established in 1922 as a technical school and grew into one of the continent’s top universities. Its alumni include independence-era leaders such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, renowned writers including Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Mwai Kibaki, third president of Kenya, Mahmood Mamdani, PhD graduate of Harvard; Stella Nyanzi, feminist academic; Olara Otunnu, diplomat and lawyer; and clergy like John Sentamu, the recently retired Anglican archbishop of York.

Two security officers are being questioned, according to Uganda Radio Network – one for sleeping at his guard post and the other for lying about his whereabouts to detectives.

In recent years, a number of scandals tarnished the highly regarded university, most recently the failure of the university to receive nearly half of paid-for graduate gowns, caps and hoods, blamed on “several anomalies” in the bidding process.

University secretary Charles Barugahare is being held responsible for the embarrassing gown scandal that marred this year’s 70th graduation ceremony vice-chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe was quoted to say.  [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 September 2020]

Photo: Makerere University main building burning (PHOTO/PML Daily).

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